November 14, 2022
JAKARTA – A series of deadly or potentially disastrous mass crowd events at home and abroad is a clear reminder that we need to have a robust crowd control strategy to save lives, particularly when pandemic-weary Indonesians are set to go out for revenge travel.
The pandemic is yet to end, but relaxed protocol restrictions have brought some level of return to mass gathering and with it we have seen the bottled up thirst for live events uncorked.
The masses are rushing to relieve their hunger pangs to get to gigging again, to be once again part of the crowd, to see their idols in the flesh and point their camera to flash. But poor planning and mob mentality have reared their ugly heads out from the stage wings.
South Korea saw at least 156 mostly young people killed in a crush on Oct. 29 at Seoul’s first post-pandemic Halloween party. On the same day, the Democratic Republic of the Congo saw a stampede that killed nine spectators and two police officers at a packed concert in Kinshasa.
At home, also on Oct. 29, chaos ensued at the Berdendang Bergoyang music festival venue which saw crowds beyond the capacity of its venue Senayan Sports Hall in Central Jakarta; 27 people were hospitalized. The local police decided to cut the festival short, cancel its last day on Oct. 30 and have so far named two suspects in connection with the incident.
Again, on Nov. 2, the police decided to stop the first day performance of the South Korean boy band NCT 127 in Tangerang after at least 30 fans passed out in the raucous crowd. On Sunday, a K-pop star meet-and-greet in West Jakarta was also cut short for safety reasons by the organizer, after thousands of people packed the mall the event was held at.
These events happened less than a month after the death of 135 people in a stampede after a soccer match at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java, on Oct. 1; these should be our warning calls.
As industry players have pointed out, there has yet to be written rules for event organizers nationwide to comply with.
The Indonesian Music Promoters Association (APMI), for example, has only planned to devise a manual on attaining security permits and other standard operational procedures for all promoters and event organizers.
Music event mishaps have happened before in Indonesia.
For the Boomers and Generation X, the one that sticks to their memory would probably be the riot that took place in April 1993 during a Metallica concert at Lebak Bulus Stadium in South Jakarta.
Millennials will remember the deadly crush during the concerts of pop-act Sheila on 7 in Bandar Lampung in 2000 and metal band Beside in Bandung in 2008, killing four people and 11 people, respectively.
While we wait for comprehensive regulations on this matter, it is important for all stakeholders to improve the best practices.
As the industry starts blooming again, and will probably be bigger than ever before, event organizers should take crowd management seriously.
More importantly, gig-goers need to be informed and should equip themselves with caution needed in going to mass events.