Claimin' I'm A Criminal: Reports From Tuesday Night's Melee At The Pete Rock/Smif-N-Wessun Show
Sirens are forever wailing around town, but the sirens I heard as I walked down Houston Street Tuesday night sounded extra-menacing. And judging by the sheer number of squad cars flying past me, and the intensity with which they ran red lights and drove against traffic up Orchard Street, it was evident something bad was about to transpire.
Shortly after midnight, a gang (and I use that in a very literal sense) of New York Police Department officers rushed Tammany Hall on Orchard Street, interrupting a peaceful Pete Rock/Smif n Wessun event.
Witnesses say the attack by police was unprovoked. Several onlookers captured much of the chaos on camera; judging from the footage, the police were the aggressors.
Officers from the Seventh Precinct gathered outside the popular spot, then pushed their way into the venue. After arresting Louis Pena, a rapper by the name of Louie Skaggs, on stage, they proceeded to shove, mace, and club partygoers and bystanders, according to witnesses. (Read the Post's account here.)
Outside the venue things quickly escalated. Pete Rock's daughter was assaulted, say witnesses, and placed under arrest for trying to defend her mother from further abuse. Gabriel Diaz, a.k.a. Sincere, was hospitalized after being severely beaten by several cops and then kicked after he'd been handcuffed.
As people detained by the police trickled out of central booking on Thursday afternoon, details kept emerging. Below are firsthand accounts by witnesses of the melee. A police spokesperson was not available for comment.
Kenneth Montgomery, attorney for Pete Rock and Smif n Wessun:
Why were the police there in the first place?
You got me. Their presence was absolutely unwarranted ,and their actions were unprovoked and completely unjustified. I'd even go as far to say as they came fully prepared to start a riot.
The first batch of officers came. They loitered outside [Tammany Hall]. When more officers showed, they all put on their black gloves and went into the party. A Sergeant Vasquez goes in, grabs artist Luis Pena aka Louie Skags. He puts Pena in a yoke of sorts and arrests him.
Why did they go in the club?
To "clear the venue."
Why? And what does that entail?
No idea. Even if that was what they wanted, people were exiting in an orderly fashion. But once [NYPD] came back outside they started pushing and shoving people. No direction, just bullying people. Then they mace people exiting the club. Total chaos. No order whatsoever. Completely aggravating a harmless situation. Sadly, a couple of girls got thrown against gates and hit with batons and shoved. Gabriel Diaz, who is also an artist, was beaten by police so severely he wound up at Bellevue. Also, James Ayala, who Pete Rock had personally invited to videotape the event, was arrested for filming while Pete Rock's wife and daughter were being abused.
How many people were arrested?
Are there any other pending lawsuits?
None at the moment. We'll be in talks. We have 90 days to file a claim.
It's crazy that you were there. How many people did you actually see get abused?
A lot. I saw at least five people who were assaulted with pepper spray and hit with batons.
What was NYPD's response?
To show how unremorseful the NYPD is about the whole travesty, Commissioner Ray Kelly outright lied in his statement when he said bottles were thrown at officers and that the footage had been edited.