Two years ago, a single mother was forced to defend herself and her children in a Walmart riot. Now she has to defend herself from corporate bullying.
I represent the infamous Black Friday Walmart pepper spray shopper and her two children in a civil case brought against Walmart. Her side of the story has never been told. Immediately following the events, media surrounded her home, hounded her family and called her place of work. As her attorneys, we needed to let the police investigate and then, if necessary, she could speak. Her children were injured, she was injured, and Walmart, along with a handful of customers looking for their 15 minutes of fame, demonized her. Walmart is notorious for vilifying the customer instead of taking responsibility for their substandard safety procedures and the actions of their untrained employees.
This past week, CBS came knocking again. We had been previously approached by a multitude of media outlets from Dr. Phil to Telemundo. An interview with a well known reporter from CBS was scheduled and rescheduled, with CBS claiming this to be the perfect chance for my client to tell her side of the story. As good as that sounded, the prospect of having my client’s story once again manipulated for ratings was a real possibility. And given recent settlement discussions with Walmart, it was apparent that they were going to continue to attack and ridicule my client with lies, threats and obvious racism. Not that it should matter, but it does when one is dealing with Walmart: My clients are second and third generation Americans who happen to be of Hispanic descent as are almost half of the residents of Los Angeles County.
Black Friday started as Black Thursday and Walmart’s shopping ‘event’ turned into a melee.
Black Friday: A day that is defined by crowds of customers jockeying for position to obtain merchandise that is priced well below retail price and found in very limited quantities. This is done in an attempt to lure customers to the stores in hopes they purchase much more than the advertised specials.
But in this economic climate, retailers have become so competitive, they now have Black Thursdays, making Thanksgiving a day of shopping instead of a day of family, turkey and football. Walmart is one of the greatest offenders of this holiday. Along with forcing its employees to work on Thanksgiving, they care little for their customers, their customers’ safety and the safety of their employees. While my clients’ actual injuries were not life-threatening, this event could have just as easily turned tragic. Three years earlier, in New York, an employee of Walmart was trampled to death on Black Friday leading to an OSHA fine (that still hasn’t been paid) and numerous lawsuits as well as a promise to handle future events safely—but only in New York. Our event took place on the other side of the country—California.
Walmart advertised X-Box consoles and games at drastically reduced prices. My client, a woman in her thirties, is a single mother of three children. She is but one of the millions of working poor responsible for her children and in her case, she also has the added responsibility of her mother’s and her disabled aunt’s care. I have known her most of her life and she is a good and caring woman, mother, daughter and niece. She, like most of us, would like to provide her family with everything they desire but, financially, she simply can’t. She needs to stretch a dollar into five and Walmart advertised an opportunity for her to provide her children with gifts she could never afford under any other scenario.
Contrary to the lies put forth by Walmart, she was not a “competitive shopper.” Walmart used this term when they described my client to the media and to the authorities on scene to make it appear as if my client was an experienced Black Friday shopper who gamed the system, the crowds and the events at many stores to beat out other customers. She, in fact, is an ordinary shopper who had on occasion attended post-Thanksgiving sales events in malls looking for pre-Christmas bargains. She had never waited in lines or rushed stores in “dash for cash savings” type events. She had never attended a Walmart Black Thursday or Friday event before this one. She has not been back to Walmart since she and her children were punched and attacked by other customers with Walmart employees looking on but unable or unwilling to help. Walmart failed my client, her children, their customers and their front-line employees, just as they have in many stores in many states including the New York disaster involving the death of an employee.
The store doors were open. Crowds of shoppers were milling around the store where covered pallets of merchandise were placed in different locations. My client and two of her children made their way to the pallet with the X-Boxes. They were the first 3 to arrive at this particular pallet. They were placed in front of and photographed at the pallet, where they remained, with elbows resting on the tarp, until all hell broke loose hours later as Walmart’s employee manager incited a riot.
Here they are, right on top the pallet. Clearly, they didn’t need to fight their way to the pallet:
Pepper spray was used in self-defense as Walmart shoppers viciously attacked those who had the X-Boxes and X-Box games.
One does not need to be a CSI investigator to prove that Walmart lied about my client and her use of pepper spray. Knowing that my clients were first in line destroys Walmart’s claim that my client used pepper spray to gain an advantage. She simply had to pick up an X-Box, or X-Box games, turn and leave. Her twelve year old daughter and fifteen year old son could do the same and all the children would then have had a very special Christmas.
A Walmart employee on a megaphone shouted at the shoppers to let the Walmart employees “get out of harm’s way” before the tarp would be removed. Could there be a more telling statement of foreknowledge? As the employees scrambled in what can only be described as a melee, shoppers in the back pushed forward, screaming and lunging for the boxes on the pallet. My client and her children had already reached for their game box and attempted to turn and leave when they were viciously attacked. A grown woman who had been waiting behind my client jumped my client’s twelve year old. As she struggled with the woman attacking her child, a large man straddled my client’s son twisting his arms trying to wrestle the package from his arms. My clients were thrown to the ground, had their hair pulled, were stomped and socked in the face. As the crowd continued to push forward, my client grabbed her pepper spray attached to the strap of her purse to save her children.
Read more at: www.addictinginfo.org