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'Rap' Musicians' Concert Is Canceled at Palladium After Long Beach Fights

August 19, 1986|GEORGE RAMOS | Times Staff Writer

Fearing a recurrence of violence that left 40 people injured after a concert Sunday in Long Beach, promoters canceled a "rap" music concert that had been scheduled for Monday night at the Hollywood Palladium featuring some of the same entertainers who had appeared at Long Beach.

Meanwhile, members of the concert's lead act, Run-D.M.C., which has highlighted anti-violence themes in its music, lashed out at police and private security guards, saying the officers did little to protect fans from the 300 to 500 street-gang members who were in the audience Sunday night.

The group issued a statement saying that Run-D.M.C. would "refuse to play Los Angeles until police and the authorities take sterner measures to protect Run-D.M.C. fans from local gangs. The gangs stand for everything that rap is against. . . . "

Authorities said four people were arrested as a result of the brawling at the Long Beach Arena. The fighting was instigated for no apparent reason by Latino and black street gangs in the audience, they said.

Palladium Manager Dick White said the decision to cancel the Monday performance by Run-D.M.C. was made several hours after he learned of the incident Sunday night in Long Beach.

"We just felt it was prudent to take precautions against any further problems," he said.

He acknowledged that there were no problems when Run-D.M.C. appeared at the Hollywood landmark last September.

And officials at the Long Beach Arena said that the rap groups who headlined Sunday night's show would not be booked again because their fans "have caused or have a propensity to create situations" like the fighting that marred the concert.

Rap music, born on New York's ghetto streets in the late 1970s, is characterized by a driving beat and rhyming lyrics delivered in an aggressive, sing-song vocal style. While many rap songs promote positive themes, such as staying in school and abstaining from cocaine, authorities say live performances also attract violent people.

The decision by the Palladium to cancel Monday night's show came as Long Beach authorities were reviewing the aftermath of the near-riot that occurred in the arena.

The show Sunday night ended at 10:45 p.m. when 60 helmeted Long Beach police officers swept through the arena and forced spectators outside after authorities stopped the show. Police Cmdr. Al Van Otterloo said the fighting continued outside the arena.

Witnesses said gang members, who waved their colors as they defiantly paraded through the auditorium, began fighting almost from the start of the 7:30 p.m. concert.

One concert-goer, Chris Baker of Los Angeles, said a metal chair flew past him moments after he took his seat for the show. "I've been to more than 100 concerts and I've never been scared for my life before," he said Monday. "But I was last night."

"The gangs were just running around all over the place causing havoc," said another concert-goer, Blaine Austin, 18, of Eagle Rock.

The arena sustained an estimated $2,400 in damage.

Some witnesses said the brawling was initially between Latino and black gang members. Eventually, it spread to bystanders. Some were struck with chairs, wooden sticks and, in one instance, a fire extinguisher. And at least one man was shot, suffering a minor shoulder wound.

Authorities decided to end the show when it became clear that "we could not guarantee the safety of innocent third parties" in the audience, said George Matson, general manager of Facility Management Inc., which operates the arena for Long Beach.

Many of the injured were treated at Long Beach-area hospitals. One man was in guarded condition at St. Mary Medical Center with a stab wound, and another was in serious condition with head cuts and trauma.

A third man, Jeffrey White, 25, was in fair condition at Memorial Medical Center of Long Beach with a broken facial bone and an eye injury, officials said.

Two unidentified men were arrested for resisting arrest and interfering with a police officer, Van Otterloo said. Two others were arrested for being under the influence of drugs, he said.

A spokeswoman for Run-D.M.C. said the group's production chief repeatedly called police, beginning about 8 p.m. Sunday, for assistance, but his requests were refused. He was told the police would not intervene until asked to do so by arena management, the spokeswoman said.

Matson said the security force--which had been beefed up to 130 people from the normal complement of 100 for Sunday night's concert--did as well as it could under the circumstances.

He said the arena's lights were turned on during the fighting in an apparent attempt to help security people deal with troublemakers. But that tactic backfired, Matson said, "because the gangs could see our people coming and duck out and then go into another section."

In addition, he said, the beefed-up security forces were simply overwhelmed by the number of gang members in the crowd.

Matson said he regretted the decision to ban Run-D.M.C. from future performances at the Long Beach Arena. "This is unfortunate," he said. "But given the incidents of Sunday evening, we have no alternative."

It was not immediately clear if such a ban would hold up, since the Long Beach city attorney's office several months ago issued an opinion that such prohibitions might not be legal.

Run-D.M.C. is in the latter stages of a nationwide tour that began last May on the East Coast. Police said there have been outbreaks of violence at the group's appearances in New York City and Pittsburgh.

At New York's Madison Square Garden on July 19, muggings, knifings and jewelry snatching followed the group's concert there. But a New York-based publicist for the group insisted that the incidents were not linked to the concert, pointing out that the police were linking acts of violence that occurred about 20 blocks away from the arena.

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