Complete Panic at the Global Citizen Festival


By Lauren Reiser, Sophomore Editor

Imagine being in a crowd of 60,000 people attending a music festival at the Great Lawn of Central Park in New York City. It has been a beautiful hot and sunny day and it is around 7:30 in the evening. Cardi B has just performed and you are relaxing on your towel in between sets. All of the sudden, people start charging from the stage screaming there is a shooter. There are now 60,000 swarms of people in the midst of complete chaos; people have abandoned their belongings to run to safety, been hurt by the stampede of people, and are most of all, scared of the unknown cause of this loud sound.  

This was the situation that occurred Saturday, September 29th, at the Global Citizen Festival on the Great Lawn in Central Park, New York.

The Global Citizen Festival is an annual music event, organized by the Global Poverty Project, that raises awareness for the movement to end extreme poverty. By completing actions on the charity’s website or app, fans can win free tickets to the festival. This year, the event was headlined by the Weeknd, Janet Jackson, Shawn Mendes, Cardi B, and Janelle Monae, with John Legend as a special performer. The event was hosted by Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness and welcomed many notable presenters such as Naomi Campbell, Chris Martin, Robert DeNiro, Dakota Johnson, Andrew Cuomo, and many more.

A few minutes after Cardi B exited the stage, festival-goers suddenly started sprinting away from the stage in a panic, many shouting there was an active shooter after hearing a loud sound. It was dark outside and it was very difficult to see what was happening. The people at the festival were gated with metal barriers in pens and did not know how to escape. Fearing the worst, people pushed down barriers and hopped fences, causing a stampede-like situation.

With everyone still in hysteria, Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, took the stage and assured the distressed festival-goers to “stay calm” and that “everyone was safe.” Nevertheless, the panic was unstoppable. A New York City police officer also came on stage, and commanded everyone to move away and evacuate the Great Lawn. Subsequently, many quickly ran out of the event before the panic had ceased.

Following this initial hysteria, the Assistant Chief Kathleen O’Reilly assured festival attendees that everyone was safe, and the cause of the loud sound was a fallen barrier, not a gunshot. However, people were still frightened and tried to escape, causing tall fences to be toppled, people to get trampled, and many to escape shoeless.

After further investigation, the police later determined the cause: a fight that broke out between two people near the stage prompted others to quickly disperse, resulting in people stepping on and popping drink bottles, which created a frightening sound.

Once everyone calmed down and felt reassured to continue the concert, another issue sprouted: all of the barriers that had gated people into sectioned pens had been removed. Since everyone wanted to get as close to the stage as possible, a stampede in the opposite direction occurred, causing even more mayhem. Despite this situation, the event continued, and finished with a performance by the Weeknd.  

Even though the panic occurred under false pretenses, the event was still very alarming. New York Times’ Sarah Mervosh regards that “[f]or many, the brief panic, which happened around 7:30 p.m., was an indication of the country’s mind-set at a time when mass shootings can happen anywhere — at schools, churches, nightclubs and concerts. Though there were no shots fired, the possibility of a shooting felt raw and real.” Experiencing this situation first-hand shattered my feeling of complete security and safety and made me realize the immediacy of this problem. Despite all of the recent shootings that have been occurring in the U.S., I never believed there would be a moment in my life where I would be surrounded in a complete panic and have to wonder if there was an active shooter. My experience shed light on our country’s gun issues and transformed an issue that seemed distant into a personal one.

Junior Angela Reyzelman, who also attended the event, commented how “shocking [it was] to see such a large group of people running scared for their lives. I was always aware of the possibility of something like this happening, but it never felt real until that moment.”