Black Friday: Discounts, protests, gunplay

Nov. 23, 2012 at 6:38 PM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Bargain hunters indulging in post-turkey deal-seeking encountered protests as some of the largest U.S. retailers opened earlier than ever for Black Friday.

Though a Gallup poll indicated just one-in-five Americans planned to go shopping Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving and the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season -- by midday Walmart said it had processed more than 1 million register transactions at its 4,000 U.S. stores, CNNMoney said.

Walmart opened its doors at 8 p.m. Thursday, angering some employees who say the ever-earlier opening times are infringing on their right to spend the holiday with family.

The opening sparked a series of protests at a handful of Walmart stores, with employees at some locations walking out and joining a union-backed picket line.

"I have four kids and I don't want them to grown up in a society where people disrespect them," said Jouse Mata, an overnight maintenance worker at a Walmart near Dallas. "This is a never-ending fight and we're never going to stop."

Pro-union group OUR Walmart said protests sprung up at nearly a dozen Walmart stores in Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

Walmart workers aren't members of unions.

Police arrested nine people Friday afternoon outside a Walmart near Los Angeles where an estimated 1,000 people gathered to protest the company's labor practices -- including cutting workers' hours, and using schedule changes and firings as punishment. Protesters say the company retaliates against workers who go public with their criticism of working conditions.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Dale Ryken said those arrested in Paramount, Calif., had disobeyed an order to disperse, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"The whole thing was going to be a peaceful demonstration," Ryken said. "It was understood that they would send 10 to 15 people [at once] to get arrested."

Walmart Chief Executive Bill Simon said in a statement the protests have had minimal impact, the Times reported.

"Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates," Simon said. "We estimate that less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide."

Violence -- or the threat of violence -- accompanied the shopping rush in some places, including Holland Township, Mich., where Ottawa County sheriff's deputies arrested two suspected shoplifters, one of whom had allegedly pulled a gun on an Old Navy store detective.

Police recovered evidence they said linked the suspects to other thefts in Holland Township and the Muskegon area, The Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press reported.

Police in San Antonio said a shopper who pulled a gun after somebody punched him in the face during a Black Friday scrum at South Park mall was within his rights, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Jose Alonzo Salame, 33, produced a concealed carry license and told police he drew his 9mm semiautomatic handgun in self-defense.

Officer Matthew Porter conceded, "We don't see this very often."

Witnesses told police Salame had been behaving rudely before another shopper, identified as Alejandro Alex, 35, punched him, the newspaper said.

The incident interrupted shopping for about 10 minutes at the Sears store where it occurred.

In New York's Times Square, tourists and shoppers lined up outside a Toys "R" Us, which also opened at 8 p.m. Thursday.

For some, the overnight sales prove alluring enough to shop not just for Christmas but pending birthdays and other annual gift-giving occasions, The New York Times said.

"We'll probably spend the whole night at Macy's after this," said Iona Rashmi of Manhattan, who said she did the same last year. "I do my shopping for the whole year this night -- holidays, birthdays, everything I need to buy for friends and family. The deals are better."

For others, a trip to Toys "R" Us was worth avoiding crowds elsewhere.

"I guess I don't really have any particular goals for tonight's shopping, but it seems less nerve-racking to stand in line here than walking through all of that," said Patrick Tucker, a 24-year-old from Kansas City, overlooking the clogged pedestrian traffic on Times Square sidewalks.

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