New Jersey State Police, dressed in riot gear and driving armored military vehicles, deployed tear gas into a crowd trying to make its way into MetLife Stadium for Hot 97’s Summer Jam concert Sunday night.
The facts of how the situation escalated are a bit murky, but according to reports seems to have begun when concertgoers—some ticketholders, some not—were barred from entering the stadium by a line of NJSP wearing riot gear and wielding batons. Disgruntled members of the crowd allegedly threw glass bottles at the police, after which they used high-pitched noises and then tear gas as crowd-dispersal tactics. The Asbury Park Press reports:
Witnesses say the disturbance began around 7 p.m. due to an altercation between concertgoers. That’s when officials shut the gates to the show, the Hot 97 Summer Jam at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, causing a logjam of people at the MetLife gate, which in turn led to metal barriers being toppled and thrown.
After concertgoers began throwing bottles in response, police then took up a defensive V-shaped position in front of the stadium gates as a barrage of bottles pelted the officers.
An armored State Police vehicle came into the middle of the crowd and activated a piercing alarm to try to disrupt the crowd of about 1,000 people.
“Apparently a fight happened inside, so they stopped letting people inside,” said Chris Figueroa of Long Island, who was in the middle of the crowd. “I never experienced anything like that — I thought somebody might’ve had a gun.”
Summer Jam has been a cornerstone of hip-hop for more than 20 years, both as a New York City-centric forum and a barometer for the nation. (This year, Kendrick Lamar headlined with his TDE crew; other performers included Nicki Minaj, Future, Meek Mill, Fabolous, Ma$e, Lil Kim, Remy Ma, and many more. Also, 50 Cent and French Montana squashed beef.) But while the concert has had its fair share of chaos in the past—most notably, the chair-throwing incident of 2003—this may be the first time attendees have ever been tear gassed. As it happened, reports and photos emerged on Twitter.
Hot 97 station director Ebro took a more sanguine view of the events on Twitter, and on Monday’s “Ebro in the Morning” show,” he said, “The people that made it go sideways, you’re an idiot,” Ebro said. “Throwing bottles at the state troopers, we don’t like that. You’re trying to ruin it for everybody. Shame on you.”:
Hot 97 released the following statement:
Due to strong demand for tickets for Summer Jam 2015, the show sold out early this evening. When fans realized tickets were not available at the box office, a small number of people created an unsafe environment, and for the safety of all guests, the New Jersey State Police were on scene to disperse the crowd. The gates were closed at that time. No further entry was permitted into the event.For ticket holders whose tickets were not scanned, refunds will be offered at the point of purchase.
It’s tempting to speculate whether “a small number of people” could have been dealt with more effectively by, say, “a small number of cops,” rather than a mass of troopers outfitted for a war zone, whose united front was no doubt infuriating for law-abiding fans who simply wanted to go see their favorite rappers. In the era of #blacklivesmatter, a militarized approach to combating a crowd comprised of mostly black people seems like a good way to exacerbate existing trauma and anger. As witnesses at the scene told NBC New York, “Innocent bystanders getting maced? That’s ridiculous. That’s injustice.”
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Image via AP