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Riot in Ikea furniture store as greed turns into violence

*** Yesterday morning just after midnight a riot erupted at the opening of a new Ikea furniture shop in London. An estimated 7,000 people turned up to shop in the sale, but the crowd turned nasty as people began to jump queues, argue and fight over new sofas and beds. Screaming customers attacked staff and punched, kicked, crushed and trampled each other "like animals". Are people in Western society so brainwashed by advertising that we are losing our minds? Do we care more about products than people? We fight more desperately for new sofas than the starving survivors of the recent Asian Tsunami struggle for their scarce food rations. Why? ***

A man was stabbed and hundreds of people were crushed as the opening of the biggest Ikea store in England descended into chaos.

Nine ambulances were sent to the store in north London after reports that up to 20 people suffered heat exhaustion when the midnight opening turned into a riot. Staff closed the doors after half an hour amid fears the stampede could become a Hillsborough-style crush.

Six people were still being treated in hospital today.

More than 4,000 flocked to the new store in Edmonton last night, lured by adverts promising huge discounts, including sofas at 45 each and bed frames cut to ?30.

As soon as it was declared open, the crowds tried to push their way through the main doors, leaving many people pinned against the wall. Security guards were overwhelmed and scores of shoppers were thrown to the ground.

A man, believed to be in his twenties, was stabbed at a Tesco petrol station yards from the store. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "It was all part of the same incident." Today the victim was "stable".

Paramedics at the scene said they feared a disaster. An ambulance service source said. "I thought it could be another Hillsborough. It's a miracle no one was killed."

Video footage showed shoppers fighting over furniture. One man was pinned against a wall by a burly customer as they argued over a sofa. A woman was left with blood pouring from her nose after she was pushed against a wall, while another was heard screaming in pain as she tried to escape the crush. Shoppers were stretchered into ambulances while others sat on the floor, where staff gave them first aid.

After half an hour the store was closed - but at the main doors, staff were reduced to writing signs in black marker pen and holding them up against the windows to announce the fact. The crowd refused to disperse, and at one point some outside the main entrance ried to smash down the glass doors.

Fights broke out between Ikea staff and shoppers. More than 30 police officers were drafted in to keep the sides apart as firefighters tried to free customers who were still trapped in the crowd.

Meanwhile, traffic on the North Circular ground to a halt as people who had been in jams for over an hour simply abandoned their cars.

Ikea apologised for the chaos but a spokeswoman said some shoppers had "behaved like animals".

Customers criticised the store for being understaffed. Karni Mahmood, 37, from Enfield, said: "I'm amazed at how badly organised it was. Ikea failed to provide the staff to control such a big event. They are to blame for this mess. I was near the main doors and I couldn't move in any direction. I only came here to buy a cheap sofa."

Student Latyia Arpesh, 23, from Tottenham, said: "I was pushed to the ground. I tried to get up but had people all clambering over me. It was terrifying, I feared for my life."

Plumber Gary Woodman, 39, said: "My wife was punched in the eye. She's in a lot of pain. All they had to do was plan this opening properly and the night would have passed off peacefully."

One woman claimed she suffered an asthma attack in the store after staff refused to let in a friend who had her inhaler.

However, an Ikea spokeswoman said: "I think it's fair to say we misjudged it and maybe were a bit naive, but some shoppers behaved like animals and started shoving and pushing everyone else. There's not much we can do to stop that.

"We took advice from the police and council over how many people we would need for the opening. We followed all the safety guidelines."

Ikea staff said they were shocked by the stampede. One said: "When we opened the doors there was this almighty rush. We didn't know what to do so we closed the doors straightaway, but some people got stuck in them and others were rammed up against the glass. We tried letting in people one by one but they ran through again.

"We were looking forward to selling loads of nice furniture at very cheap prices. It was never meant to turn into a riot."

Customer Ben Adetimle, 31, an accountant from Leytonstone, said: "I bought a sofa but as soon as I turned my back someone had stolen it. But I'm not upset, it's just furniture and it's not worth dying over."

As paramedics treated the injured, many shoppers continued to wheel their trolleys around the store. A woman with a set of pot plants said: "I've come all the way from Birmingham for this and I can't come back empty-handed."

Jilal Patel, 29, from Tottenham, said: "I started queuing at 11am and nothing is going to stop me from getting my sofa."


Evening Standard, "Stabbing in Ikea chaos", 10 January 2004.

This Is London (PA), "Chaos at Ikea opening", 10 February 2005.
    Five people are in hospital today after hundreds were crushed as the opening of England's biggest Ikea store turned into a riot.

The Independent, "Battle of Edmonton: chaos as 6,000 rush for bargains at Ikea opening", 11 February 2005.


This Is London, "Ikea catalogue beats the Bible", 27 August 2002.
    It is the biggest thing to come from Sweden since Abba - but now Ikea's catalogue has become so popular it has more devotees than the Bible.
    The Swedish home furnishing company, which once invited customers to 'chuck out your chintz', will distribute 110million copies of its brochure this year,
    That gives it an annual circulation four times greater than the Good Book. The 300-page free catalogue is printed in 46 languages, distributed to 33 countries and takes about a year to compile. Thirty-five parttime photographers take four months to shoot its 6,800 pictures.

Evening Standard, "Ikea chief is the world's richest man", 6 April 2004.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 11 February 2005.

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Tags: Ikea, riot, stampede, Edmonton, London, Britain, UK, violence, black, crushed, capitalism, consumerism, greed, sign, , conspiracy theories.

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