Rappers Rally Against 'Police Brutality' After Lower East Side Club Riot
By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
CITY HALL — A pair of hip-hop stars involved in a fight with cops last week outside a Lower East Side concert venue stood Tuesday with the people arrested for allegedly assaulting officers during the scrum to decry what they claim was the police's use of excessive force.
The incident unfolded just after midnight outside Tammany Hall at 152 Orchard St., where police were called to respond to overcrowding inside the venue during a June 29 record release party for rappers Pete Rock and Smif N Wessun, the NYPD said.
A fracas then erupted between police and concertgoers — with much of it caught on tape — leaving five officers hospitalized with various injuries and five party-goers arrested on a host of charges, including assaulting police.
"We've never seen this much horror, especially displayed by police officers," said rapper Steele of the group Smif N Wessun. "It was frightening and disheartening, to say the least."
While the NYPD has defended its actions, saying that some of the attendees incited the riot by yelling for others to attack police during the dustup, a lawyer for the five people arrested claimed the NYPD stormed the club unprovoked and began viciously beating one of his clients.
"Just because you say it, doesn't mean it happened," said attorney Kenneth Montgomery, who disputed the NYPD's record of the incident at a rally on the steps of City Hall Tuesday.
Montgomery criticized Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's defense of the action and noted that the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau recently contacted him to discuss the matter.
He plans to pursue a lawsuit against the department, pending the outcome of his clients' criminal cases, he said.
Those in attendance that night claimed police initiated the violence by entering the venue without cause and pulling a man off stage, punching, kicking and beating him along with other party-tgoers.
Witnesses said police yanked 35-year-old Lewis Pena off the stage, then began "pummeling him" with punches to face and body-slammed him to the ground, Montgomery said.
He added that witnesses saw officers put on leather gloves before the incident, and took that to mean that the cops had "already convinced [themselves]" of having to physically engage the crowd.
Pete Rock, another rapper who was performing that night, noted his 24-year-old daughter, Jade Everette, was among the five arrested.
He called police "animalistic" for their actions in keeping her in handcuffs even while inside a holding cell, and his wife, Shara McHayle, added she was shoved after asking officers to stop beating a "motionless" Pena.
"We went out last week, and it was a celebration," McHayle said. "We had no idea what we were in store for."
Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron referred to the incident as "police wilding" and called on the Manhattan District Attorney's office to drop the charges against the five people arrested.
"Not a single victim here was committing a crime," he said at the rally. "This is a warning. … We're not going to take this kind of stuff."