(Matt Bewig) Wal-Mart needs to learn that a “flash-mob” is not the kind that riots and causes property damage, based on the actions of its store in Pembroke Pines, Florida, last Tuesday. That was the day—the 11th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington—that 75 students from nearby Coconut Palm Elementary School in Miramar arrived at the local Wal-Mart to perform “God Bless America” in a tribute to the September 11, 2001, victims, only to be rebuffed by store management, who called them a “liability” and called the police to report a mob.
Undaunted, the children, ages 7 to 10 and accompanied by parents and teachers, sang in the parking lot under an American flag. As they headed to their cars to leave, Pembroke Pines police arrived in response to the report about a “flash mob situation.” Police officer Alex De La Paz claimed Wal-Mart’s complaint necessitated a response from the police, who apparently sensed that something was amiss with the store’s reaction. “Some of the officers felt that it wasn’t a police issue,” De La Paz told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The police took no action because “all the kids were already in their cars.”
School officials said they had arranged the “flash-mob”-style performance in advance with a store manager named Frank, but when the students arrived, Frank was not around and the manager on duty refused to honor the agreement, forcing the children to sing in the parking lot. Principal Terri Thelmas said the patriotic routine was designed as a flash mob meant to honor the fallen and to raise the spirits of shoppers on the somber anniversary.
On Wednesday evening, a Wal-Mart spokesperson issued an apology on behalf of the store at the center of the controversy and invited the children to return for an in-store performance.
Thelmas said the schoolchildren would probably forgive Wal-Mart more readily than their parents. “I know the children, and they forgive easily,” she said.
To Learn More:Walmart Apologizes for Rejecting School Chorus on 9/11 (by Juan Ortega, South Florida Sun Sentinel)
“Heartless” Walmart Manager Kicks out Elementary School Choir Planning to Perform Tribute to 9/11 Victims in Store (by Snejana Farberov, Daily Mail)