The Armory Migos Riot

March 15, 2015

You’ve heard all the excuses from the management,
here’s why the in-house security failed

It was another riot at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany, this time during a hip hop performance by an up and coming gansta rap group called Migos. That night You Tube was almost immediately loaded with phone videos of some of the mostly black concertgoers fighting and throwing around trash barrels and those big metal crowd-control barriers right out in the middle of the crowded floor. Meanwhile the performers egged on the rioters over the sound system, saying things like “Hit ‘im wit it, hit ‘im wit it, that’s gangsta my n—a, that’s real n—a, that’s how we do it!”

The riot resulted in numerous injuries, including six individuals suffering stab wounds (seven by some reports.) A young woman was badly beaten in the bathroom by a group of women while their male companions guarded the door, not for her purse as the local corporate media misreported, but for her apparently fashionable shoes. As of this writing the Albany Police, who were not consulted by Armory management prior to or during the show, have identified and arrested three of the rioters.

Inside The Washington Avenue Armory Inside The Washington Avenue Armory

The incident instantly reminded us locals of the infamous Foam Party Riot at the Armory in October of 2012. The difference was that the 2012 riot happened outside the building when the promoter of the event overbooked the show by at least twice the capacity of the venue, and the mostly white suburban kids and college students who couldn’t get inside attacked police and EMTs as if these first responders were responsible for their inconvenience. The management of The Armory was, of course, held responsible for allowing the promoters to get away with something like that, but the resulting changes to the Armory management in response to the incident turned out to be little more than cosmetic.

In both incidents the management of the Armory feigned surprise and tried to pass the blame, falsely claiming that they had provided adequate security. But according to my sources, mostly security professionals, the security for the 2015 Migos show was understaffed, underpaid and badly managed. These sources made it clear that the Armory management underprovided security as a matter of course, which is why the real pros refuse to work for the Armory and naturally did not work the Migos show.

Recent Publicity Photo Of Migos Recent Publicity Photo Of Migos

It should go without saying that the Migos performers should be arrested and charged with inciting a riot, what they did that night at the Armory does not constitute Free Speech. But for some reason it looks like they won’t be held accountable. Perhaps there is fear by the authorities of getting embroiled in some kind of really stupid racial conflict, thus the authorities consider it easier to let these jerks leave town and tell them to not come back. Whatever the reason, the Migos performers have figured out how to start trouble and get paid handsomely for it.

That being said, the Armory management knew damn well what was going to happen. They’ve booked rap shows before, and besides, five minutes of Google would have shown them that this tendency to promote mindless violence is how Migos operates. In any case, Armory general manager Michael Corts and head of security Jim VanApeldorn have no excuse for not being properly prepared for the Migos show.

Washington Avenue Armory Head Of Security Jim VanApeldorn Washington Avenue Armory Head Of Security Jim VanApeldorn

Security head Jim VanApeldorn, who is also the head of the Albany Parking Bureau, is responsible for hiring security personnel for Armory events and for coordinating security arrangements with visiting performers. VanApeldorn was promoted to head of security immediately after the 2012 Foam Party Riot (which a participant to that event recently told me was not a foam party as the media claimed but a regular rave, whatever.) What has become clear in the past few weeks is that VanAppeldorn’s ascendancy to the head did not fix the problems with security, but actually appears to have made the problems worse.

Security jobs at venues like the Armory are, by necessity, part time. A few management and maintenance jobs at the Armory are full time, but most positions are only activated during events, most of which are held on weekends. Low key events, such as the Antiquarian Book Fair I attended there the morning after the 2012 riot, require no in-house security and if needed is provided by the event promoter.

Concertgoer Throwing A Crowd Control Barrier, Albany Migos Riot

Concertgoer Throwing A Crowd Control Barrier, Albany Migos Riot

Sporting events like basketball games require more security personnel, but for these the Armory characteristically uses casual hires. The real security pros tell me that the usual pay at the Armory is $75 a night, which is one of the two big reasons why they never work there. That was what the guards were paid the night of the Migos riot. As a result most of the Armory guards that night, except for VanApeldorn and his assistant, a fellow named Andy, were inexperienced young guys in their early 20s a few in their teens.

Not that youth is a problem, but I’m told that night VanApeldorn hired all the guards off the books and didn’t even keep records of who was working. Each guard was simply handed $75 cash at the end of the night which, I’m told, is the usual procedure. It also appears that he didn’t plan ahead to fill these positions, at the beginning of the show he was still scrambling for bodies and the show remained understaffed.

VanApeldorn was so disorganized that there weren’t enough SECURITY shirts to go around, the only thing that designates the guards as staff empowered to keep order. This became a serious problem during situations when unruly concertgoers would challenge their legitimacy during the show. This demonstrates that the Armory management did not have much concern for the safety of these guards.

Armory spokesperson Joe Bonilla laid out a bunch of spurious claims in an email that he issued to the local media. Quoted in the Hearst-owned Times Union:

During the Migos concert, the venue had 35 private security guards, five Albany police officers and four EMTs… The crowd was riled up because Migos was supposed to perform at 10:30 p.m., but the rappers did not go on stage until after midnight, Bonilla said. The Atlanta-based trio performed for 45 minutes…