TRENTON, New Jersey (AP)—Radio hosts at the New York station that sponsors the country’s largest one-day hip-hop music festival took to the airwaves to scold concertgoers who threw bottles and rushed the gates, prompting police to fire tear gas into the crowd and arrest 61 people. But one DJ said the melee should not overshadow an event that’s been going on for 23 years.
While tens of thousands of fans listened to some of the biggest names in hip-hop inside MetLife Stadium Sunday night, hundreds trying to get in clashed with police in riot gear after the gates were closed, leaving 10 troopers hurt.
The melee at the Hot 97 Summer Jam in East Rutherford, New Jersey, drew a sharp rebuke Monday from hosts at WQHT-FM, but it also prompted questions from fans who had tickets but were ordered to leave.
“You cannot throw bottles at police,” Laura Stylez, of the Hot 97 morning show, said on air Monday. “What is wrong with you?”
New Jersey State Police in riot gear blocked gates outside the arena after officials said people tried to push their way inside or jump the fence. An armored state police vehicle later began blasting a loud, piercing noise to try to disperse the crowd, and then officers fired tear gas canisters into the crowd.
Police said the majority of the arrests occurred when people tried to climb fences and push past security. The troopers closed the gates to restore order and then briefly reopened them to let people with tickets in, but “they were closed again when non-ticket holders attempted to push their way in,” police said.
They said some in the crowd then began throwing bottles and trash at police and security, and additional troopers were called in.
“Our troopers took the appropriate steps to restore order to what was a brief and volatile situation,” Colonel Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said in a statement.
Udi Ofer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s New Jersey chapter, called for the state Attorney General’s office to investigate whether the “event was properly managed and policed, how many injuries and arrests took place, and whether the tactics and force deployed by state troopers and potentially other law enforcement personnel were appropriate.”
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office declined to comment.
Hot 97 DJ Ebro Darden said the concert is “one of a kind” and that the station will address the issues from Sunday night.
“There’s not another concert where this many hip-hop and R&B individuals are on the same stage at one night,” he told WPIX-TV. “Part of the reason it may not exist is because people are afraid of this type of behavior from young people. This is the music that we play and … we have to take the good with the bad some times.”
Nimi Hendrix, a 32-year-old documentary filmmaker from Newark, said he was among the group with tickets that grew frustrated as they waited to get in after police shut down the gates.
“They have to realize that a lot of money was spent to get to this concert,” Hendrix said. “It’s more than just music. It’s a cultural thing. It’s the biggest hop-hop event in the area.”
The concert was headlined Sunday by Kendrick Lamar, Trey Songz, Big Sean and Chris Brown.
Emmis New York, the company that owns Hot 97 WQHT-FM, said refunds will be offered for those whose tickets were not scanned.
There have been past incidents between fans and police at Summer Jam shows at the Meadowlands, including when fans threw bottles and CDs at police after people rushed the gates to try to get into a sold-out show in 1999. A year later, state police used pepper spray on concertgoers who used bolt cutters to try to cut through the fence to get inside.
State police said 51 people were arrested at last year’s event and that more troopers were on hand Sunday.