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Black Friday Frenzy Sparks Violence At Some Stores

Shoppers flooded stores across the country today as the holiday shopping season officially got under way and people rushed to grab Black Friday deals on electronics, toys and other merchandise.

More than 9,000 people waited outside Macy's Herald Square in New York City on Thursday night ahead of the midnight opening, according to The Associated Press. A Best Buy in St. Petersburg, Fla., had a line nearly 2,000 shoppers deep.

At the Mall of America in Minnesota, The New York Times reports that an estimated 15,000 people were outside stores by midnight Thursday, and the mall was expecting to exceed last year's total of 200,000 Black Friday shoppers.

There also have been isolated reports of violence at stores across the country.

  • A woman at a Southern California Wal-Mart allegedly used pepper spray to get first crack at the Nintendo Wii games and Microsoft Xboxes that had just gone on sale, says NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates. About 20 people were treated by paramedics for minor injuries. The Los Angeles Times said one police lieutenant described it as "customer-versus-customer shopping rage." Police are still searching for the spray-wielding competitive shopper, who could face charges of felony battery.
  • A man was shot in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in San Leandro, Calif., during an attempted robbery, police say.
  • In Kinston, S.C., off-duty police officers allegedly used pepper spray to try to control the crowd at a Wal-Mart.
  • Police in the Phoenix suburb of Buckeye are facing criticism after they reportedly tackled a 54-year-old man who they say was shoplifting at a Wal-Mart. Witnesses say the man was trying to help his young grandson.

The disturbing incidents call to mind what happened at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., in 2008, when a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death as more than 2,000 people stampeded through the store's locked doors just minutes ahead of the 5 a.m. opening.

Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter tells the AP that while there were "a few unfortunate incidents" this year, Black Friday went off without a hitch at most of the retailer's nearly 4,000 U.S. stores.

And the vast majority of crowds and lines elsewhere were peaceful. Up to 152 million people were expected to shop the Black Friday sales this weekend either in stores or online. That's up from 138 million people last year, says the National Retail Federation, which is tracking shoppers' behavior.

NPR's Yuki Noguchi spoke with the manager of a Target in Gaithersburg, Md., who says the first person got to the store at 2 p.m. on Thursday, 10 hours ahead of the midnight Friday opening time.

At the Toys "R" Us in New York City's Times Square, Alex Rabinovic says he stood in line for hours on Thanksgiving night to try to save a few bucks on presents for his daughter.

"Eh, it's the American tradition, standing in line in the cold," he tells NPR's Noguchi.

Members of the Occupy movement also were demonstrating in cities across the country, protesting against consumerism and, in some cases, in support of store employees forced to work during the holiday weekend.

  • A group of Occupy Oklahoma City demonstrators were arrested at a Wal-Mart in Del City, Okla.
  • Occupy Harrisburg says a member of its group was arrested at the Capital City Mall in Lower Allen Township, Pa., after refusing to remove a zombie costume. The mall bans costumes that cover the face.
  • Police in Eugene, Ore., say one Occupy protester was arrested after demonstrators chanted and used a bullhorn early Friday at two Wal-Mart stores.
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