Last Saturday, thousands of people packed into Tompkins Square Park for a free hardcore show that appears to have wound up being the largest city-permitted concert in NYC since the start of the pandemic. The massive crowd of mostly maskless concertgoers left some wondering how the city allowed a show this large to happen, when officials say COVID-19 remains a serious threat in NYC? But according to the permit application approved by the Parks Department, this was never supposed to be a concert—organizers had been given permission for a “September 11 Memorial” political rally.
The permit application for “September 11 Memorial” was submitted on November 2nd, 2020 by organizer Chris Parker with an email associated with The Shadow, an underground newspaper distributed on the Lower East Side. The Parks Department says that this organization has booked events at the park since at least 2006. The description for this particular event was listed as a “political rally with speakers and music,” according to copies of paperwork shared with Gothamist.
Earlier this year, the event date was switched to April 24th, but the name and description of the event were not updated.
Saturday’s concert, which was organized by Black N’ Blue Productions, featured hardcore groups Madball, Murphy’s Law, Bloodclot and The Capturers; it was a free, unticketed event, but the bands solicited donations on GoFundMe beforehand for the New York City Burn Center Foundation (they raised over $6,000 altogether).
In a statement on Instagram, Black N’ Blue Productions denied that the event was listed as a 9/11 Memorial. But a copy of the permit application provided to Gothamist does identify the event as “September 11 Memorial.”
“I’m sure most people know the media lies almost all the time,” Black N’ Blue Production’s statement declares. “But just for shits and giggles the permit says nothing about 911 Memorial on it!! I have the permit in my hand. Fucking asshats. Had look at it again to make sure but there’s nothing on it that says 911 Memorial.”
The Parks Department told Gothamist that several details about the nature of the event were misrepresented, including the fact that organizers stated that 100 people would be in attendance, not the 2,000+ who showed up. The Parks Department said that they “generally would not permit an event of this size in this park,” even if the city was not in the midst of a pandemic.
Organizers drove a vehicle into the park, which a Parks Department spokesperson said they had not gotten permission to do; they brought in a stage, which was not listed on the permit application, and used amplified sound in conjunction with it; and the event was misrepresented to the Parks Department as a political rally, not a concert, according to the spokesperson.
But there were moments during the show where performers did make political statements. At one point, Jimmy Gestapo, the lead singer of Murphy’s Law, compared masks to bondage (you can see video of that below). And after the show, Bloodclot frontman John Joseph responded to criticisms by comparing the event to Black Lives Matter protests last year.
Between the alleged misrepresentations and the fact that the event violated New York’s COVID-19 gathering restrictions by having too many people, no social distancing and lax mask wearing, Parks Department spokesperson Crystal Howard tells Gothamist, “We are moving to revoke all permits for this organizer and related future events.”
Questions sent to an email addressed listed on the permit application were not answered prior to publication.
Altogether, the Parks Department has revoked permits for seven upcoming events by this organizer. That includes two events that had already been approved: another hardcore show planned for May 8th, featuring Antidote NYHC, Kings Never Die, and the Last Stand, and a Memorial Day rally on May 22nd. There were five other pending events (all listed as “rallies” and all stating attendance would be 100 people) revoked, including a pair of dates commemorating the Tompkins Square Park Riot in August, and a Halloween Rally in October, according to the Parks Department.
Spokespersons for Mayor Bill de Blasio did not respond to questions about the event.
Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, who represents the Lower East Side, stumbled upon the concert on Saturday while at another event. “I saw hordes and hordes of people who were maskless with this concert going on that was crazy,” he told Gothamist. “It was insane, people were pouring into the streets, people were everywhere.”
Epstein said he was shocked when he learned that the Parks Department had issued a permit, and he hopes officials are more careful about checking permits in the future.
“I’d like to see much better oversight by the Parks Department,” he said. “If there is a permit issued for an event, [I hope] that they actually manage it and ensure it’s appropriate. If they had looked at the permit here, they’d know they weren’t entitled to a stage and could have shut it down right away.”