Free Ice Cream Almost Causes Stampede

By Alexander Velichkov

— Security guards had to push away a mob from the ice cream truck at Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day held in front of Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA on Tuesday, Apr. 14. Four AUC students were stuck in the crowd, and one of them suffered minor injuries.

Pathé Amsterdam, the host of the event, offered the first 50 people to be served a free movie ticket along with their cup of free ice cream. But as soon as the Ben & Jerry’s truck parked in front of the Pathé cinema, the competition for the tickets triggered a surge of the 200 people who had been impatiently waiting for its late arrival.

The tension in the crowd eased once the free movie tickets had run out.
The tension in the crowd eased once the free movie tickets had run out.

“The thing that struck me the most was that people actually started fighting,” said AUC student Tereza Safarova, 20, who was bruised in the leg when someone pushed her into a woman’s edgy handbag. “Next to me there was a lady with a stroller and a little kid, and some guy started pushing towards that stroller. I think somebody fell into the stroller; then the mother started to punch the guy. There was a smaller lady beside me, and the mother accidentally hit her in the head with an elbow…”

Security guards entered the crowd, splitting it in two and shouting in Dutch and English: “Pull back! There are children here!”

The truck arrived at 18:43 and by 18:50 the last tickets were given away, easing the tension. At 19:20, there were only a dozen people going back for second and third helpings of ice cream.
There were no preparations to queue up the crowd. “It was unlike anything I’ve imagined,” said AUC social science major Thao Lam, 22. “I thought it was going to be a queue, you know, being really civilized.”

A Facebook comment on the event page described the scene as, “like Black Friday.”

Ben & Jerry’s is a Vermont-based ice-cream company which annually holds Free Cone Days in various cities around the world. Its website published an article on “10 Ways to Pass the Time in Line on Free Cone Day,” which included dancing, starting a wave and doing jumping jacks. The Free Cone Day in Amsterdam, however, had no line at all – it was just an unorganized crowd pushing for ice cream. At press time, Ben & Jerry’s had no comment about the event.

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