From music festival to massacre, who is to blame?

November 5th, 2021: 50,000 people gathered inside of NRG park to watch one of the world’s most popular rappers perform at Astroworld, a music festival of his own creation. Travis Scott was set to perform along with the rest of the festival’s lineup, which consisted of other equally renowned members of the music community such as SZA, Tame Impala, Bad Bunny, Don Toliver, 21 Savage and more. In an unexpected shock, the event soon unfolded into a scene of utter terror and hysteria. Here’s how it happened.

At 2 pm, a stampede of people arrived at Astroworld without tickets, breaking past the security barricade to gain access to the event. The venue, whose capacity is 20,000 people, was inhabited by approximately 50,000, according to Houston police. Prior to Scott’s arrival on stage, the crowd began to compress, a result of the extreme amount of people, all wanting to be as close to the front as possible. As soon as Scott began his performance, chaos ensued. Every single person was pressed up against the others around them, no one able to move or see anything.. Almost immediately, people began to faint, breathing became strenuous, and escaping was impossible. As the music played screams could be heard from the men and women in the crowd who were pleading for someone to help them. Security and medical personnel were impeded by the crowd, and arrived on the scene too late. People were giving their friends CPR and medical workers loaded bodies on stretchers. Nine people died, aged 14 to 27. Hundreds were injured, and thousands now have to live with the trauma that came from the experience. This situation leaves the country with a burning question: who is to blame for this tragedy?

It is my belief that the responsibility for this event does not fall on one single entity, but a combination of many. Music festivals are quite common, but it is rare for them to turn into a mass casualty event. Through examining different factors which took place prior to the event, one can piece together what went wrong.

The storming of the festival by thousands of people is one clear contributing factor to its downfall, and is one of the few elements that has a single instigator. A venue with a capacity of20,000 people should never have been occupied by more than double that amount. A tweet by Scott before his performance clearly encouraged a mob, especially since this isn’t the first time he has pushed for such behavior.

He has been charged with inciting violence two times in the past: Once in 2015, where he encouraged fans to storm his performance at Lollapalooza, and again in 2017, where a number of people were injured after he encouraged his fans to jump on stage. It is clear Travis Scott is no stranger to inciting violence amongst his loyal following. A public figure with over 11 million followers on Twitter should be more mindful of how serious his words are taken, and value the wellbeing of his fans over promoting “rage culture”.

Event organizers also carry blame for this tragedy. It is clear through how it played out that this event was very poorly planned. The security staff was abysmal and did not even attempt to prevent the stampede of people from breaking down event barriers. It is clear that there was not an adequate amount of them at the venue and the ones that were there were untrained to handle a situation of this proportion. First hand accounts explain that security workers didn’t do anything to help those who passed out, and relied on help from concertgoers to assess the severity of the situation. When planning an event where thousands of people’s lives are concerned, providing inadequate staff is not a justifiable mistake.

Cresskill students have their own opinions about who they believe is to blame for this incident. When asked who she believes is responsible, junior Sydney Zaikov stated, “I think Travis Scott is responsible for the deaths at his concert because he was fully aware about what was happening but did not care. He had the power to make it stop but he didn’t”

All those responsible for this terrible tragedy need to be held accountable and punished to ensure that nothing like this happens again. This situation can act as a lesson, it is apparent that safety standards for festivals need to undergo heavy changes. Nine people should not have died over the careless mistakes that went into planning this event.

Update 11/17/21: 9 year-old Ezra Blount has died from his injuries, making the death count 10.