If you live in New York and/or pay attention to underground rap, you are probably already aware of the shit-storm that has been unfolding around the police action at Pete Rock + Smif N’ Wessun‘s release event for Monumental Tuesday night. There have been numerous videos floating around depicting both the good vibes inside Tammany Hall (above, via BHHTV) and the chaos that ensued outside (here, via Jay Diamond). There have been lots of tweets, blog posts and conflicting reports of various kinds as well and to get the story straight, PR + SNW held a press conference and released an official statement (below) earlier today. But since we have supported this project from jump and may have even sent you to this event we felt an extra responsibility to get the story straight from the source. Since the release event was also a photo exhibit for Fubz–photographer, SNW extended-crew and frequent contributor to our Caribbean channel LargeUp –we hit him up en route from Manhattan Criminal Court and got the following interview direct from Tek & Steele of Smif N’ Wessun:
OKP: So I understand you just came from the courthouse (Manhattan Criminal Court)?
Steele: We’re actually in Times Square. We’re just leaving MTV, where we did a quick interview with Rob Markman. But we were at the courthouse immediately before that.
OKP: What exactly was happening at the courthouse?
ST: Five people from the Monumental release event were detained and we stayed until they were released successfully.
OKP: You were at the courthouse from the time the incident happened (Tuesday night) until today?
ST: Yes. Myself, attorney Kenneth Montgomery, Pete Rock’s wife Shara [O’Hayle] the family of Gabriel Diaz—who was released in a neck brace and had other injuries to his face and elsewhere—were all there.
OKP: When you say detained, were they actually charged?
ST: Yes, each of them were charged with trumped up things like inciting a riot, disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice [obstruction of governmental administration-ed.]—I think that’s the charge they give you if you’re filming the police, basically. They say that you’re preventing them from doing whatever they’re doing so that’s how they tag it.
OKP: So I want to get straight from the source, what exactly you saw firsthand inside and outside the club the other night…
ST: Inside the club I saw beautiful people of all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities enjoying hip-hop—we organized the event for the release of Monumental and it went off without a hitch. When the party ended and patrons started coming out there were police outside–in full gear already, masks on and everything—they threw mace up in the club and basically maced us back into the club. I personally saw Luis Pena get arrested, Gabriel Diaz was assaulted by the police–he left in an ambulance, straight to Bellevue. Cynthia, Gabriel’s wife, was assaulted by the police. Rock-ness Monster from Heltah Skeltah was assaulted. Buckshot (from Black Moon) was asked to show his ID and then the police just threw his ID, I have no idea where—just threw it like it was trash.
OKP: There were reports that the police were shutting down the venue because of something that happened outside, but you’re saying the party was actually over?
ST: We had ended early, actually…
Tek: When this started we were actually onstage saying our goodbyes because we only wanted to do a few select songs from Monumental but some party-goers were calling for us to do a couple verses from other songs that we’re known for…
ST: And then people were leaving the venue. Luis Pena, who was pushed by the police and was arrested, is a Bucktown USA artist, he was just onstage with us as well.
OKP: Tek, did you have different perspective on what you witnessed outside the club?
Tek: I didn’t witness much, because I was too busy getting maced up inside the club. By the time I came out by a side door there wasn’t that much to see.
OKP: So what happens now?
ST: The next thing to do is to get all the accounts of people who witnessed this police brutality against these five people—there were way more than five people who experienced brutality but those five were actually arrested—and make sure they don’t railroaded by the police.
OKP: We’ve also heard that Pete Rock’s daughter was among the people who had an altercation with the police…
ST: Yes, Pete’s step-daughter was one of the five who was arrested–I call them the Monumental 5 but its not like they were friends or knew each other before, they’re just five random people who came out to have fun and support Monumental.
New York, NY
June 30th, 2011
On Tuesday, June 28th, Pete Rock, Tek & Steele (of Smif N Wessun) were celebrating the release of their collaborative album, ‘Monumental.’ It was a peaceful gathering inside of a sold-out Tammany Hall (lower-east side Manhattan, NY) to see the group perform new music from the project. Earlier in the evening some guests wanted to enter the event but were turned away by the management and bouncers employed by the club. A minor argument ensued, but eventually was diffused by the bouncers. Thirty minutes after that minor skirmish 15-20 uniformed Police Officers from the 7th precinct arrived at the venue. Shortly after even more uniformed officers arrived. The officers then hurried into the club and began macing and assaulting individuals inside the club, dragging one of them out and pummeling him directly in front of the club. Present at the event were artists, industry tastemakers, fans, photographers, and cameramen. Several people began filming and recording the unprovoked brutality, much to the dismay of the police. The officers then began to mace and assault anyone within arms length, including several women. Kenneth Montgomery, the group’s attorney, who was in attendance at the event, stated that the Police “behavior was unjustified, unprovoked, and simply barbaric considering there was no provocation.” Pete Rock, Tek and Steele fortunately were not harmed, however some of their friends & family were assaulted by the Police. The group’s attorney, Kenneth Montgomery, is addressing the situation now with local community leaders & is available for comment with more detailed information.
For more detailed information on the incident please contact: