September 17, 2014
So, what books were you guys buying before you got pepper sprayed?
by Kirsten Reach
Where would you go if you wanted to irritate the eyes of dozens, if not hundreds, of cheap book lovers all at once? The Strand, it seems. Pepper spray went off near the front counter late yesterday afternoon, according to Jen Carlson at Gothamist.
While the photos shared over social media were dramatic, most people just tweeted about what books they couldn’t ring up. There’s little more reassuring than sarcasm after an “incident.”
Following up on the tweet, “we all just got pepper sprayed in the strand wtf,” customer Laura Hetherington told Gothamist:
I walked into the store right as it was happening, and immediately started coughing as I passed through the front by the registers. A couple other people started coughing as well, and there was an odd smell and weight to the air, in addition to the area being slightly hazy to the eye. I didn’t pay much mind to it, but as I continued to walk towards the back my coughing became more severe and I heard several people who had remained at the front start violently coughing and gasping for air, although there was no yelling or panic so everyone in the store was confused as to what was happening. It was not immediately or fully clear what was the cause. I waited at the back and heard a sales associate come back to us and say, “Everyone stay at the back of the store, apparently someone used pepper spray by the registers.” We waited at the back and the sales associates were all sort of joking about it or talking about how random it was, just trying to figure out what was going on. About 7 minutes later the firemen came into the building and forced everyone to evacuate immediately, stopping all transactions that were taking place and ushering everyone out.
Everyone was evacuated in what ABC is calling a “HazMat incident,” and customers were treated for respiratory issues (from pepper spray or old books, you never know).
Kavish Harjai of NYU News confirmed with the manager, Eddie Sutton, that everything was OK. “The fire department checked it out. They are turning the AC on,” Sutton said around 5 PM yesterday.
So… how did someone end up setting off pepper spray at the bookstore? Will the Strand have to go back to checking our bags at the door?
Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.