Around 2 or 3 p.m. yesterday, a large group of teens started congregating around the South Street Seaport. They were milling around waiting for the start of a free concert by the rapper Drake (whose album came out/"dropped" yesterday). Unfortunately for them, and the rest of us that showed up, that concert never happened, and what did ensue was a weird riot-type thing that resulted in metal chairs and tables being thrown off balconies and police having to eventually spray the crowd with mace.
It all started out harmless enough, normal overcrowding issues with just just too many people in the Seaport area. Which, in retrospect, sort of makes sense: when you consider the fact that there was a line of people at midnight at the Best Buy in Union Square waiting for a chance to pay money to buy Drake's album, presumably a lot more people would show up for the chance to see a free concert held by said Drake on a nice Tuesday afternoon.
The concert started at 6 p.m. and Drake was scheduled to go on at 7:45-after opening acts Ninja Sonik and Hanson (yes THAT Hanson, the ones who sang "Mmmbop") were supposed to have their own little sets. Around 6:15, Ninja Sonik ended up doing about 2 minutes and then stopping, and Hanson, according to people backstage, looked out at the mob scene outside with limited security and didn't feel comfortable going on.
Around 7 p.m., as everyone was jostling for a better view of the stage, some people started to climb up and sit on those rooftop sort of things of the little kiosks at South Street Seaport. Police started yelling at those (mostly) teens to get off the roof, and that's when everything started to get a little wackadoo.
The authorities then thought it better to start to clear people out. But the thing is, if you're a kid whose been waiting for three to four hours to see rap superstar Drake, you're not looking to get told that you have to leave the same area that you've been perched upon after having to have heard a two minute set by Ninja Sonik. People started shouting and general unrest turned into crazy mob mode. The Heartland Brewery Restaurant and Pub across the street locked its doors (with patrons inside) because they saw what was happening outside.
If you've never been to the South Street Seaport, it's sort of like an outdoor strip mall on the water with two levels of stores. The top level also has a little terrace with outdoor furniture and other outdoor mall type things. As people started getting angrier, they started to throw trash from the ground floor of the terrace up to the second floor. This quickly escalated to glass bottles, and then the sort of piÃ¨ce de résistance, the aforementioned outdoor furniture. The next thing you knew, there were chairs, tables, and plants being thrown from the top level onto the bottom level.
Things started to settle down, but as people were still holding out to see the free Drake concert that they were promised, no one was really evacuating the area. Police went up to get the people who were throwing the lawn furniture and took them out, but still people were still holding court wherever they had been waiting for hours.
Finally the police started to tell people to clear out and that the show was canceled. As I'm sure you can imagine, the crowd did not take this news particularly well. As the officers walked through and out of the crowd with the people they had arrested from the balcony, there was a swarm that just surrounded them-lots of them taking pictures. At that point, it got even more intense and the police started to spray mace through the crowd, with the obvious result that 200 to 300 people began dispersing as quickly as they could. It was like those times when a kid runs through a group of pigeons and they all fly away in a big mob, running into each other, making this big mass of feathers, only instead of pigeons it was kids wearing fitted New Era hats and Air Jordans.
After the mace incident, people seemed to understand that Drake wasn't going on, and things started to, relatively, calm down. Eventually Drake released a statement to the website Rap Radar:
I am humbled by the crowd that showed up in support of my performance and the release of Thank Me Later. I love performing for my fans but unfortunately the show was canceled by the NYPD due to over crowding, leaving me without the chance to give my fans a real show. I'm thankful for the support that the fans have been giving me… I thank you now.
So at least that's good.
Photo and video via Rap Radar; second photo by Ben Detrick.