Rap­per’s con­cert can­celed af­ter LR of­fi­cials raise cry

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - CHELSEA BOOZER AND HUNTER FIELD

Man­agers of a Lit­tle Rock con­cert venue can­celed tonight’s sched­uled per­for­mance by a Mem­phis rap­per af­ter elected city of­fi­cials raised con­cerns late Thurs­day about a string of vi­o­lent al­ter­ca­tions ac­com­pa­ny­ing the artist’s ap­pear­ances.

Po­lice Chief Ken­ton Buck­ner first raised con­cerns a week ago about the con­cert, which was sched­uled for 10 p.m. to­day at the iHeart Me­dia Metro­plex Live, 10800 Colonel Glenn Road.

In an Oct. 5 let­ter to San An­to­nio-based iHeart Me­dia and En­ter­tain­ment Inc., Buck­ner de­tailed three shoot­ing in­ci­dents in re­gard to re­cent ap­pear­ances by De­mario De­wayne

White Jr. in other states.

White, who uses the stage name Money­bagg Yo, also has ties to Ricky Hamp­ton, the Mem­phis-based rap­per who

was per­form­ing at a down­town Lit­tle Rock club in July when gun­fire broke out, in­jur­ing 25.

Those ties alarmed city lead­ers be­cause the two Mem­phis artists have had an on­go­ing “beef,” ac­cord­ing to nu­mer­ous so­cial me­dia posts and on­line videos.

Mayor Mark Stodola and city di­rec­tors only learned of the con­cert af­ter an all-day bud­get work­shop late Thurs­day af­ter­noon. Stodola wasn’t happy that he and the board had been kept in the dark about the con­cert for a week.

“I’m try­ing to find out why I was not briefed ear­lier,” Stodola said in a phone in­ter­view late Thurs­day. “I thought it was a pretty dumb thing to book this con­cert, not be­cause of the na­ture of the mu­sic but be­cause of the in­di­vid­ual per­former’s pat­tern of doc­u­mented vi­o­lence and the

na­ture of our city in the af­ter­math of the shoot­ing in July.

“I’m thank­ful it got re­solved.”

Stodola and other city lead­ers be­gan con­tact­ing con­cert or­ga­niz­ers Thurs­day evening and sched­uled an emer­gency meet­ing of the Board of Di­rec­tors. At the meet­ing, which was called off af­ter the con­cert can­cel­la­tion, city di­rec­tors were to de­ter­mine how to block the per­for­mance, whether by pe­ti­tion­ing a cir­cuit judge for an in­junc­tion on grounds of a pub­lic-safety threat or send­ing a cease-and-de­sist let­ter to event or­ga­niz­ers.

Lo­cal and state of­fi­cials in re­cent months have grap­pled with how to handle night­clubs and con­certs that pose risks to pub­lic safety af­ter they were roundly crit­i­cized af­ter the July 2 shoot­ing at Power Ul­tra Lounge, 22 W. Sixth St., for fail­ing to en­sure ef­fec­tive safe­guards were in place to pre­vent such vi­o­lence.

The pri­mary con­cern Buck­ner raised in his let­ter to iHeart Me­dia was that the venue lacked ad­e­quate se­cu­rity plans. At the time, or­ga­niz­ers in­tended to hire 10 off-duty po­lice of­fi­cers to pro­vide se­cu­rity at the fa­cil­ity, which has a ca­pac­ity of 2,500, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

“We be­lieve that num­ber to be wholly in­ad­e­quate,” Buck­ner wrote to iHeart Me­dia’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

The let­ter also told of a Nov. 24, 2016, Money­bagg Yo con­cert in West Point, Miss., where a per­son was shot and killed af­ter get­ting caught in a cross­fire with the in­tended tar­get. On March 11 of this year, two men were shot at a Money­bagg Yo con­cert in Colum­bus, Ga., as the rap­per was tak­ing the stage. More re­cently, White was in­volved in a shoot­ing in New Jersey at a rest stop. The van he was rid­ing in was hit with gun­fire, and two of his as­so­ci­ates were in­jured.

“Our in­tel­li­gence in­di­cates that the shoot­ing oc­curred be­cause he did not pay a pro­tec­tion fee to the Sex Money Mur­der Bloods gang,” Buck­ner wrote.

Reached Thurs­day night, Buck­ner said that Metro­plex agreed to in­crease its se­cu­rity at the Po­lice De­part­ment’s re­quest, adding five off-duty of­fi­cers in uni­form. It also planned to have 30 se­cu­rity guards work­ing the event and to search ev­ery­one with metal de­tec­tor wands upon en­trance, in­clud­ing the performers.

“I feel like they’ve done what we rea­son­ably asked them to do,” Buck­ner said. “This is ob­vi­ously some­thing that is very sen­si­tive to our com­mu­nity con­sid­er­ing the anom­aly we had with Power Lounge. Cer­tainly we don’t want to over­re­act or act as if we can never have an­other con­cert in our city. I feel ad­e­quate with the staffing that we have and that we are pre­pared to go for­ward, but I do un­der­stand the mayor and oth­ers have con­cerns. Our goal was to make sure we did every­thing we felt was rea­son­able to en­sure this is a fun, friendly and safe event.”

Phone calls to White’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­quest­ing com­ment late Thurs­day weren’t re­turned. How­ever, the artist did take to Twit­ter.

“Sorry Arkansas they can­celed the show,” he posted. Min­utes later he tweeted again. “I’m just mis­un­der­stood that’s the story of my life.”

IHeart Me­dia’s cor­po­rate of­fices and man­agers of the lo­cal venue also did not re­turn phone calls seek­ing com­ment Thurs­day night.

Af­ter City Man­ager Bruce Moore showed the mayor and board mem­bers Buck­ner’s let­ter to iHeart Me­dia on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, they were vis­i­bly and vo­cally an­gry at the last-minute no­tice.

“This is alarm­ing,” Ward 3 City Direc­tor Capi Peck said.

Ward 2 City Direc­tor Ken Richard­son got up and started

walk­ing out. “That let­ter was com­posed a week ago, and now we are get­ting it the day be­fore?” he said.

Stodola said, “We do not need a Sex Money Mur­der Gang here, and I sug­gest we do every­thing we can. I sug­gest we get the city at­tor­ney to re­visit this is­sue.”

Sev­eral city di­rec­tors stayed even though the bud­get work­shop was ad­journed, and started mak­ing phone calls to see what they could do. There was men­tion of call­ing an emer­gency board meet­ing some­time to­day.

They shook their heads as they read Buck­ner’s let­ter. Vice Mayor Kathy Webb’s jaw dropped.

Doris Wright of Ward 6 said, “You’ve got all this gun and vi­o­lence go­ing on, and you got peo­ple who are go­ing to flock to that place,” the Metro­plex fa­cil­ity, which is within Ward 6 boundaries. “There’s no way I’d risk my life to hear some fool named Money­baggs, but our young peo­ple don’t un­der­stand.”

Sev­eral city di­rec­tors ques­tioned why they were just get­ting the let­ter. Moore told them he took his cue from ad­vice by City At­tor­ney Tom Car­pen­ter that there was noth­ing the city could do to stop the per­for­mance.

“[The mayor] needs to call the lo­cal iHeart af­fil­i­ate for us as a board and say we are not putting up with this and we are go­ing to pur­sue le­gal ac­tions. If Tom won’t, let’s hire some­one to do it,” at-large City Direc­tor Dean Kumpuris said. “We need to be in a po­si­tion to do every­thing we can. We’ve got enough bad pub­lic­ity. We just said we are go­ing to do some­thing [af­ter the July club shoot­ing].”

Stodola could be heard on the phone with Car­pen­ter af­ter Thurs­day’s board meet­ing about 4:30 p.m. talk­ing in an ar­gu­men­ta­tive tone. He told Car­pen­ter the board wanted an in­junc­tion and men­tioned de­fenses the city could use in seek­ing an in­junc­tion. He also dis­agreed that the city would be li­able for vi­o­lat­ing the First Amend­ment if it sought to have a court stop the con­cert.

“The board unan­i­mously wants you to pre­pare an in­junc­tion on the the­ory that clearly [the per­former] has a propen­sity to cre­ate vi­o­lence in his con­certs, that the sit­u­a­tion in Lit­tle Rock has shown that very pos­si­bly could hap­pen here. We can­not con­trol what hap­pens in the park­ing lot of Metro­plex. While we may be able to in­sist on a cer­tain type of se­cu­rity, are we go­ing to be able to do that in every en­trance and exit? The fact we had that in­ci­dent in July shows the cli­mate in Lit­tle Rock. Whether we can pre­vail or not, we need to make every ef­fort we can to make sure this does not oc­cur, ” Stodola said on the phone to Car­pen­ter.

A feud be­tween the two Mem­phis rap­pers, partly over sup­pos­edly stolen lyrics, peaked in the spring with Hamp­ton — who goes by Fi­nese2Tymes — declar­ing in a video posted to YouTube that White needed to pay his gang $50,000 to safely per­form in Mem­phis.

An­other video posted in April by a Mem­phis hip-hop blog­ger claimed that the two rap­pers had set­tled their dif­fer­ences. The blog­ger said the two men feared they’d lose money if peo­ple were too scared to at­tend their con­certs, fear­ing the pos­si­bil­ity they may get caught in the cross­fire.

Au­thor­i­ties haven’t linked the July club shoot­ing to Hamp­ton and White’s “beef,” in­stead blam­ing it on the es­cathe

la­tion of vi­o­lence be­tween two lo­cal gangs.

Hamp­ton was ar­rested in Birm­ing­ham, Ala., on un­re­lated fed­eral gun charges the night af­ter the shoot­ing at the now-de­funct Power Ul­tra Lounge. His trial is sched­uled for March.

Late Thurs­day, Stodola also noted that a heavy po­lice pres­ence will be needed at the

State Fair to­day, not to men­tion reg­u­lar street pa­trols.

Af­ter spikes in homi­cides and other vi­o­lent crimes over the sum­mer, the vi­o­lence slowed in re­cent months af­ter the Po­lice De­part­ment in­creased pa­trols, with of­fi­cers work­ing over­time.

“The last thing we needed was some­thing like this,” Stodola said

Buck­ner

Stodola

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