By 7:30pm, Drake already knew this thing wasn’t happening, though he came through anyway. That was right around the time the cops began to show up en masse at the South Street Seaport, wading into the throngs of people who had come to see Paper Magazine’s potentially ill-advised free summer show featuring Ninjasonik, Hanson, and, of course, the most popular rapper in the country, Drake. On the day of his record release date. It was a recipe for a riot, and the Seaport got one–or something that pretty closely resembled one, anyway. By the time we rolled up, a bit past 7pm, cops already had the outdoor venue surrounded; fights were breaking out all over the tightly packed crowd, and as we made our way toward the stage, a guy came past us running the other way, shouting “I don’t want to hurt nobody, so I’m out!” Good advice.
Why the show first got shut down isn’t quite yet clear–one person told us that the cops had intervened after seeing the woefully deficient number of security guards the concert organizers had brought. Hanson, via Twitter, seemed to indicate that the problem was with the crowd, who earlier had been climbing over and on top of the various kiosks that line the Seaport, and later made their way to the mixing board, where they broke that too, according to the former teen idols.
Update: Sources later told the Voice that the riot apparently started when a couple started simulating sex in the middle of the crowd. Though the crowd was into it, a plainclothes cop moved to intervene. A civilian then attempted to stop the plainclothes cop from getting involved, at which point a uniformed cop spotted the civilian accosting the plainclothes cop, and grabbed him. At which point the crowd went nuts. Ultimately, the riot became so severe that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was called to the scene. Said the Seaport’s official statement: “Unfortunately, by the announced showtime, both the Seaport management and NYPD estimated that the on-site crowd had greatly exceeded this safe capacity, was still rising, and the show could no longer be presented in a safe atmosphere.”
Certainly by the time openers Ninjasonik–who, after playing for just a few minutes, were given the unenviable task of informing the crowd the show was canceled–walked off the stage, pandemonium was already beginning to break loose.
The primary theater of battle? The northern side of the Seaport, where fans standing on the balcony in front of shops and restaurants began raining bottles down on the crowd below, who promptly returned fire. As things escalated, the bottles turned from plastic to glass. Then, at the peak of the fight, kids on the upper level began tossing steel chairs off the balcony. That was when people really started to run. It was also about at that moment that the police finally broke through the crowd and stormed the second level, where they too were momentarily pelted with bottles. We watched a few kids on the deck attempt to shove or otherwise assault the cops who were trying desperately to clear them out. In turn, more than one officer took out her baton, though the police had the situation in hand relatively quickly.
After that, it was mostly crowd dispersal, and stray fights. Helicopters buzzed overhead. Standing across from the Seaport, we watched as hundreds of kids suddenly went scrambling away from the stage area in terror. We asked one why he was running. “Mace,” he said.
The rest of these not-so-great-photos by Zach Baron