Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on the Drake Riot: “We Want to Learn From This”


By now we know that things got so out of hand at the South Street Seaport during Tuesday’s free Drake show that the police commissioner himself, Ray Kelly, was called to the scene. Given the fact that by that point, hordes of people were chucking flowerpots, plastic bottles, and metal chairs at one another, it only made sense. Ultimately, Kelly’s cops were forced to quell the crowd with mace and, in a few isolated spots, their police batons. Not all of the ambulances that arrived on the scene went back to the hospital empty–seven people and one officer were injured in the melee, the police later said–and the final numbers are pretty scary: as many as 25,000 people converged on a space designed to comfortably accommodate 10,000.

Yesterday, Kelly called a press conference to address the debacle, saying, “We’re taking a hard look at it ourselves to see what the appropriate mechanisms or configuration of that area should be.” He pointed the blame squarely at the concert’s organizers, Paper Magazine: “We want to look at how this particular event was promoted. We want to learn from this.” Ben Sisario of the New York Times tracked down Paper’s publisher, David Hershkovits, for his response. It is not the most politically ideal:

Mr. Hershkovits said Paper was intending to put on more free shows at the Seaport this summer. (Other promoters are responsible for Seaport Music, another free series there.) One of the scheduled performers is Kesha, the pop singer whose song “Tik Tok” is one of the biggest hits of the year, having sold 4.9 million downloads.

“I don’t anticipate that happening for Kesha the same way,” Mr. Hershkovits said. “I don’t think this means anything more than what happened last night.”

Paper’s mistake in regards to Drake was no doubt genuine and without malice. This show was almost certainly booked months ago–before, perhaps, it was clear just how big a phenomenon Drake was about to become. The organizers may not have known, for instance, that the day of the concert they booked would come to be the day on which Thank Me Later, Drake’s hotly anticipated debut, ended up being released. The combination of a beautifully mild summer day, an artist peaking at that exact moment, and a ticket price (free) that was probably a few dollars too low conspired to spark a conflagration that, though it could have been better mitigated, may not have been all that preventable, once they started advertising it.

That said, the Times postmortem article about the riot that ended up occurring may not have been the best place to unveil the next artist Paper had scheduled in its summer Sounds Like Paper series. Especially not when that artist, Ke$ha is another one of 2010’s most popular, zeitgeist-grabbing musicians. Who happens to appeal to the same youthful and thus rowdy and unpredictable demographic that Drake does.

We have every bit of faith that neither the city, the Seaport, nor Paper itself would allow another concert to go as badly as Tuesday’s did, but Hershkovits could’ve stood to be a bit more emphatic about that fact–especially in an article which essentially blamed his publication for starting a riot. Tuesday was a compelling social experiment. But it probably doesn’t bear repeating.

Police Look Into Security After Melee at Concert