NEW YORK —Kenneth Montgomery, lawyer for the “Monumental 5,” the group of hip-hop party-goers who allege that they were victims of racially motivated police brutality at a concert here last week, said the unprovoked violence was the result of overly aggressive officers who became enraged when their harassment of patrons was caught on amateur video.
The incident, which made national news after footage of the clash went viral on the internet, is once again calling into question the motives and tactics of the New York City Police Department when it comes to policing the city’s Black and brown residents.
In a show of support, politicians, activists and rap artists appeared today alongside visibly shaken members of the Monumental 5, who told their stories to a group of nearly 70 people gathered in the front of City Hall in Manhattan.
“We’re are gathered here to say enough is enough,” activist and writer Kevin Powell told the crowd, as he accused the police of excessive force and unfairly targeting hip-hop.
Legendary producer Pete Rock, whose given name is Peter Phillips, consoled and comforted his wife and daughter as they shared their stories as victims of police brutality. “This has been a difficult time for our family,” Shara McHayle, Phillips’s wife told reporters. While her daughter, 24-year-old Jade Everett, recounted her experience of being beaten, cuffed and arrested during the incident.
Everett, along with Luis Pena, Gabriel Diaz, Cynthia Rosa and James W. Ayala, were all beaten by police and have become figureheads of the incident, collectively calling themselves the “Monumental 5.”
Pena, who to most accounts was the first person beaten during the melee, appeared somewhat rattled and his face still swollen as he recounted being grabbed, placed in a headlock, thrown to the floor and pummeled by fists and batons.
Montgomery said footage shows Pena on stage moments before police stormed into the party. Pena complied when asked to leave, but was instead beaten and detained, Montgomery told reporters. He claimed the beating of Pena sparked much of the other violence outside of the venue.
Diaz, appeared to be the most shaken up of the five, standing on the steps of City Hall wearing a full neck brace.
City Councilman Charles Barron was the most outspoken of the individuals who took to the mic. Barron pointed the finger directly at the city’s top officials. “Mayor Bloomberg and Police Chief Kelly, you are responsible,” Barron said. “Don’t bring us to the point where we have to defend ourselves.”
As of now, the best defense for the victims has been the various video accounts circulating around the Web. Montgomery believes the video evidence is the key to bringing justice and driving change when it comes to what he described as another instance of brutality by the NYPD.
“It’s becoming a part of the NYPD’s identity,” he said. Montgomery concluded with a call to action, prompting supporters to create a what he described as a culture of observation, where community residents monitor the police with cameras and the knowledge of their rights. “We need a real discourse,” Montgomery, told reporters. “We will take the offensive.”