‘Tis the season to riot. A string of major disturbances at malls nationwide on the day after Christmas has led police to increase patrols and malls to ramp up security guard presence — in case consumers needed another reason to avoid physical stores.
Brawls of mostly young people reportedly broke out around malls in Fayetteville, NC, East Garden City, NY, Elizabeth, NJ, Manchester, CT, Aurora, CO, and Tempe, AZ, among others. Hundreds are reported to have been involved in 12 states nationwide, leading to a number of arrests. Some states, including Connecticut and Tennessee, reported multiple incidences.
Mall operators are cooperating with law enforcement on investigations, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). In a statement, the ICSC was quoted as saying: “Malls are a place for communities to shop, eat, be entertained and come together, particularly during the holiday season. Consumers and shopping center employees can be assured that their security is the industry’s primary focus 365 days a year.”
Injuries were reported from Elizabeth, New Jersey, after an altercation in the Mills at Jersey Gardens food court prompted someone to shout “shots fired” or “gun,” according to Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage. Around 5,000 people were reportedly in the mall at the time. Some 10 people were injured in a rush to escape the area, including a man who broke a leg and two pregnant women who were shoved, according to the mayor.
Some have speculated that the fights may have been premeditated, coordinated online in a manner similar to the fad of “flash mobs” that ran its course a few years back. Others believe the events were coincidental, including Mayor Bollwage, who was quoted as saying: “If you look around the country, it’s all young people gathering at the mall the day after Christmas. I don’t believe it was a coordinated social media flash mob kind of thing. I think it was just frustration at the end of the holidays and a climate of too many people in one area.”