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Let’s move on: No one was to blame for Tompkins Square hardcore concert

BY CLAYTON PATTERSON | When Phil Mickelson won the PGA championship on May 23, thousands of golf fans mobbed him. It looked like a huge mosh pit for khaki-wearing Republicans. Very few masks, no social distancing. A month earlier, more than 2,000 fans of hardcore music had a mosh pit of their own as they enjoyed a Saturday afternoon concert by Madball, Bloodclot, Murphy’s Law and the Capturers in Tompkins Square Park. Again, very few masks, no social distancing.

Did the PGA lose its ability to hold future tournaments because it lost control of golf fans that day? Of course not. But the New York City Parks Department revoked permits for future concerts held by the organizers of the Tompkins concert. Maybe there wasn’t enough khaki in the park.

A band performing at the hardcore show. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

Who is to blame for too many people showing up at a music festival in a public park? The government, the promoters, the performers? Who is responsible for the head count, the government or the promoters? Government authorities who were overseeing the event were the police and the Parks Department.

Jaime Hernandez was there from the N.Y.P.D. He is a Ninth Precinct community affairs detective. He has been with the N.Y.P.D. for more than 25 years. During those 25 years, I have photographed Detective Hernandez in all kinds of emergencies, evictions, crime scenes, protests, funerals, marches, celebrations. Almost every kind of situation where one would expect to find a community affairs cop.

Wearing black and a black mask at the hardcore concert. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

He was there at the beginning of the concert. He is not an excitement junkie. He is calm in times of trouble. He knows what to do if a dangerous or potentially explosive situation arises. The police did not shut down the show. What does that tell us about how “dangerous” Detective Hernandez thought the event was?

I know the people who organized and performed at the concert. Chris Flash founded The Shadow, an  independent political newspaper started in 1989. It’s one of the only independent Downtown newspapers still published. He runs his own delivery business, has been doing Tompkins Square Park concerts for a number of years, does much to support his community.

Joseph Cammarata, left, one of the concert’s organizers. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

I have known John Joseph of the Cro-Mags for more than 35 years, witnessed him doing years of service for the Lower East Side Hare Krishna movement.

I first met James Drescher probably in 1987, working the door at the Pyramid Club with RayBeez (R.I.P.). He’s a part owner of Hardcore Tattoo, a specialist woodworker. John and Jimmy have contributed their talent and money to so many benefits.

Joseph Cammarata runs the Black N’ Blue show at Webster Hall. A family man with two small boys, he  also has done a number of benefits.

Some band members also wore masks. Raven, on sax, right, obviously could not. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

I have documented all these men in a number of different circumstances. If  I was asked on a witness stand to give a personal reflection on them, I would without question stand behind them as moral, ethical, honest, not alcohol- or drug-addicted, functional, the kind of people I respect as good community people.

Teddy Liouliakis, center, at the Tompkins show. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

Who was to blame for the concert’s potentially dangerous threat to our health? I would say, nobody. It was just an abnormal situation that seemed like it needed to happen. A storm broke. People have been in lockdown for more than a year. Cabin fever, rent owed, businesses closed, jobs lost, suicides, friends and acquaintances dead. You could not visit the one you loved. Could not visit people in nursing homes and hospitals. Could not visit doctors. I could not visit a doctor for several months. Could not start my treatment. We were all under a tremendous amount of pressure. People were pent up. Some got squirrely, some bordering on madness, others just needed to feel the first new taste of freedom.

Detective Jaime Hernandez, in blue shirt, and Ninth Precinct police at the concert. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

So for this day of wild exuberance there is no one to blame. This was the opening up of an emotional pressure value. This must have been what it was like on VJ Day, the sailor kissing that woman in Times Square.

Who had the authority to throw people out of the park? Who is the expert to determine if the health conditions were safe or not? Even the governor has made serious blunders, leading to many people in nursing homes dying. There was no riot. There were no arrests, no ambulances. How would Detective Hernandez know if it was dangerous? How would the concert organizers?  Should the government have had a medical expert there?

Selling Black Lives Matter buttons at the hardcore show. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

We live in a democracy. Freedom does come with a price. We are responsible to ourselves and to one another. I know John Joseph and Chris Flash do not believe in wearing masks. I believe in wearing a mask. We are good with each having his own opinion. I am going to be 73. I’m dealing with cancer, and the medication kicks the air out of me. Slows me down. For the moment I am more vulnerable than I would normally be. I still do street photography. Still in the hunt.

Elsa is going on 77 and is also in a weakened state. If, in the end, it turns out the masks were not needed, I would not take a chance to compromise her.

After being pent up during the pandemic, the crowd was psyched to see the bands in the park. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

I did not stay for the larger show that afternoon. I would have been very tempted to get in on the action. I love that excitement. Over the years photographing and videoing on the street, I have gotten broken bones, torn ligaments, had teeth knocked out, been knocked unconscious, and the old body is feeling the effects of all that ill treatment. I’m giving it a rest. I came because I wanted to show support, but did not want to be in the middle of any large crowd, so I left. My choice. I would have left the PGA event, as well.

Let’s move on. Stop the name-calling, the negative innuendos. We have suffered enough. Causing pain does not solve the problem. It is wrong to try and damage good people. My bet is after the concert was over, many felt mentally and physically better off than the day before. A lot of steam, aggression, internal pain and madness were released. Let’s hope nobody got sick. Think of all the photos I missed.

2 Comments

  1. Cynthia De Moss Cynthia De Moss May 27, 2021

    Well-stated and much appreciated, Clayton!~
    Thank you for publishing, Lincoln!~
    We ALL need the park events, those who live in the East Village now, those who have been part of the community and keep coming back and those newbies who want to grow community through the free expression and reception that these vital concerts and related events provide.
    Chris Flash is a NYC hero and always respects individual freedom as well as what is best for the community at large.
    Shutting down his ability to make culture happen and to occasionally let the park party its ass off responsibly is well.. .just irresponsible!~
    As Clayton implored: Let’s move on!~ We have a great summer ahead!~

  2. CHRIS FLASH CHRIS FLASH May 30, 2021

    Thank you, Clayton, for your fair article, and, thank you, Lincoln, for publishing it.

    From what we have learned since April 24, certain people within the Parks Dept want to eliminate ALL shows in Tompkins Square Park. They are using the April 24 show as their excuse. Whether it had been a small show with less than 100 attending, or the huge rally we had with a few hundred (NOT thousands, as has been horribly mis-reported in the media) attending, the Parks Dept was determined to use that show, the first of the year in the park, to shut down future shows.

    To that end, before issuing us a park permit, we had to agree to three pages of terms contained in a Covid-19 Safety Guidelines package sent to us by the Parks Dept. Within the three page package was the phrase that we “shall enforce compliance.” This phrase was included in order to set us up for justification for their shutting down future shows in the park.

    Let us be clear: NO ONE can ENFORCE compliance, especially with CDC guidelines, which are NOT law. Law enforcement is for cops and we are NOT cops. We cannot and will not act as cops and we cannot be prohibited from holding our political rallies for not acting as cops. Even NYPD members we spoke with that day told us that they CAN NOT and WILL NOT enforce mask wearing and social distancing any where in the city.

    As an alternative to being coerced into acting as police, we agreed to “ENCOURAGE compliance.” We did so by providing two tables with masks, gloves and sanitizer goop, along with announcements to practice “covid safety” from the stage. But that was not good enough for the Parks Dept, which was looking for something, ANYthing to claim that we violated the terms of the permit.

    Aside from our alleged failure to comply with current CDC guidelines that are changing practically daily and which will be moot in June and in the months to come, the Parks Dept used other allegations to revoke future park permits: that we “lied” about the attendance, that we “allowed consumption of alcohol” in the park during our event and that our event was just a concert and not “political” at all.

    When events are applied for, it is usually 6-12 months before an event takes place. There is NO WAY to know how many people will attend an event. An applicant can only GUESS, and the Parks Dept KNOWS this.

    Every day, in every park throughout the city, countless groups of people of all ages can be seen sitting in close groups with NO masks. Some groups drink alcoholic beverages. The Parks Dept’s claim that our April 24 event is responsible for the behavior of park goers, whether they were in the park for our event or in the park regardless of our event, drinking booze or not, and that we “allowed” them to consume alcohol, is ABSURD. HOW are event organizers expected to enforce liquor laws when we have NO authority to do so? If the police present on April 24 saw evidence of liquor laws being violated, they would have confiscated the booze, issued summonses or made arrests. None of that happened.

    The April 24 event was as political as it gets. From speeches made on stage to the songs being performed, it was all a positive political message of peace, racial unity and artistic freedom. As any lawyer can tell you, PROTECTED SPEECH does not only exist in the form of writing and talking – it also exists in the form of songs performed to an audience.

    Beside using false allegations to justify revoking permits in the park, the Parks Dept also engaged in a deliberate and co-ordinated SMEAR campaign against me and event organizers by telling the media that we lied about our event being a “September 11 Memorial”. IN APRIL.

    To that end, the Parks Dept sent to various media outlets, including WPIX, The Gothamist, Inside Edition and the NY Times, a VOIDED event application that contained organizers’ real personal information along with their false “September 11 Memorial” narrative.

    Two days after our event, the media feeding frenzy was ON, with media outlets fed by the Parks Dept and sub-media outlets that feed off social media and other media sites, regurgitating and compounding the LIE that we were exploiting the memory of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. The fact is that in 2020, we applied for a “September 11 Memorial” for September 11, 2021, NOT for APRIL 24. The Parks Dept denied us September 11 and gave us April 24, 2021 instead. We obviously weren’t doing a “September 11 Memorial” in April, but the Parks Dept created and spread the LIE that we were. The Parks Dept smear campaign has caused damages to me and to my co-organizers. For this, they will be held fully responsible. Defamation and libel are what attorneys rightfully call “actionable” offenses.

    As Clayton points out, the show organizers are members in good standing of our community and our political and music scenes. We love and respect Tompkins Square Park and everything that our park stands for. We shed BLOOD for our park and we have fought, physically and in the courts, to keep our beloved Tompkins Square Park FREE of state repression.

    Though gentrifiers, with the help of certain elected “representatives” who have been working on their behalf, have largely taken over our neighborhood, Tompkins Square Park is STILL our park.

    Long after monied transients move on, looking for “edgy” scenes elsewhere and the wealthy lose everything in the coming crash and politicians get booted from office, WE will still be here, in our beloved Tompkins Square Park.

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