False Alarm Frenzies Global Citizen Fans

What Global Citizen Music Festival NYC experienced last Saturday.


This past Saturday had an auspicious start, bringing the best weather we’ve had in weeks. Global Citizen Music Festival could not have picked a better day to have its annual star-studded concert in Central Park. The evening began, then, as a peaceful concert on a gorgeous late-summer night, but it soon turned to chaos and mayhem.

Fans at Global Citizen Report concert, Central Park

Janelle Monae kicked off the festival’s energy as she danced to her upbeat pop songs. John Legend followed at the piano as he serenaded the crowd with his uplifting ballads. Shawn Mendes had The Great Lawn cheering the loudest and singing along to his chart-topping hits. As the sun went down, rap’s biggest personality, Cardi B, burst onto the scene and sent the audience’s excitement sky high. Interspersed between the acts of the headlining musical guests, the microphone was passed from actor to politician, all sharing brief sentiments and encouragement to inspire Americans to engage in international activism. The issues highlighted ranged from ending poverty and protecting the environment to female empowerment and extending education to poorer countries. 

Soon after Cardi B finished her performance, though, the event took an unexpected turn. An actress introduced two representatives of medical research centers to share the progress of HIV vaccine advancements. The speaker was distracted from his speech when he heard screams coming from close to the right of the stage. He stopped reading from the teleprompter to tell the crowd to stay calm. The chairman tried to continue his prepared message, but the three were soon ushered off the stage.

I started to see people running toward the left of the stage and soon out of the park. Others took out their phones and raised them to videotape the mayhem, and I heard the people next to me whispering that a possible fight had broken out. Before I knew it, the security guards were shouting at everyone to get down and we all lay on our stomachs on the grass. Confused cries fueled the pandemonium. Some decided to ignore security’s directions and just started running for the exits. Of course, when this happened, it was the one point of the night I had been left alone. I had been designated to hold our prime spot on the lawn while my friends ventured off to purchase some cookie dough. I made the decision to head for the exit and immediately got a call from one of my friends. When we regrouped, I found them visibly shaken. They anxiously explained that one minute they were waiting in a line and the next hundreds of shrieking people were running in their direction.

One of my friends, who preferred to remain anonymous, recalled that “all of a sudden a stampede started running right towards us….it looked like a snake of people all headed up the narrow path to the exit.” Like others in the crowd, they thought they had heard gunshots and were swept into the mob trampling over gates to leave. Our stories contrasted as I overheard those around me saying that it was a false alarm of fireworks being set off. However, they overheard a person talking about a bomb. Amidst the commotion of the moment, Kate Roglieri (‘19) remained focused. “My friend was frozen with fear but I instinctively grabbed her hand and veered us both out of the crowd’s path,” she said. The police soon informed us all that it was just the sound of a metal police gate falling over that had sent everyone into a frenzy.

Global Citizens Festival

The concert resumed after the crowd had relaxed but my friends and I decided to head home—that was enough excitement for one night.

After hearing that the source of the entire scare was just a gate tipping over, I realized how quickly people assume the worst. Especially with terrorism in public places often making headlines, people are so anxious that they will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Without information, people tend to panic, follow the crowd, and not think for themselves. If there’s one lesson that we can learn from this false alarm, it’s to stay calm and assess all situations before making any rash decisions.