UBS Arena hosted a concert Sunday evening. Music, dancing, applause and celebration filled the arena, just as it does on so many other days of the year.
Through the concert and an afternoon preshow, there were no arrests. The only issues, Nassau County officials said, were over some tailgating on residential streets, vendors selling T-shirts off the premises, and a few "confrontations" that were "peacefully resolved."
So much for Nassau's fear-filled warnings of the supposedly dangerous hip-hop music festival known as Hot 97 Summer Jam.
Late last week, Nassau filed a lawsuit seeking a restraining order to stop the concert's outdoor component but it provided little evidence to support its demand that such legal intervention was needed. Instead, the lawsuit contained disturbing innuendo.
It began by noting that Summer Jam advertises itself as the "largest live Hip Hop music and culture celebration in America." But it later described the event in far darker terms that evoked ugly racial and cultural stereotypes. "The Summer Jam has — as described — created an atmosphere that fosters criminal behavior, disorderly conduct, trespasses, violence, and turmoil resulting in numerous arrests and injuries," the county's lawsuit alleged.
It's not difficult to imagine that the legal action and the language used was another attempt by County Executive Bruce Blakeman to pander to voters by raising fear about crime and threats to public safety.
Blakeman and other county officials deny any racial implications, instead pointing to the 2015 and 2017 Summer Jam concerts at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where dozens of arrests were made mostly due to crowd-control difficulties, which the lawsuit called "riot-like behavior," and to anti-police sentiments. If so, why didn't county officials raise concerns earlier? The event was announced on April 3. UBS Arena, Nassau County and police officials have ongoing conversations. UBS Arena officials said they discussed and even walked through this particular event with the police in advance. The county should have been able to address any legitimate concerns in thoughtful, less attention-getting, ways.
County officials say the last-minute lawsuit was necessary because arena and police officials hadn't agreed on extra security measures. If that's true, it's a failure of the county itself. Arena officials, however, say it's not true, that they were always willing to work with the county on security, and that they hadn't heard anything until just before the lawsuit was filed.
In the end, UBS Arena and event promoters paid for 80 additional police officers. Blakeman, unsurprisingly, attributes the Summer Jam's success to that extra presence. But depicting a gathering centered around a half-century-old, multibillion-dollar international music genre with Black and Latino roots as a possible threat to Nassau County is nothing more than bad rap.
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