Witnesses to the fatal crash outside the O2 Academy Brixton last Thursday insisted many fans in the crowd outside had tickets, dismissing reports of a ticketless crowd storming the room.
After the death of Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, was announced on Saturday, fans criticized the security and organization of the event.
A bystander claimed fans outside were “taken” to a confined space by security guards. “They put our lives in danger, they put my life in danger. Nobody is going to trap me,” said Isioma Daniel, 41.
The gig, the third of three by Nigerian artist Asake in south London, was called off after around 10 minutes.
A man apparently from the singer’s team announced on stage: “We stopped the show because they broke down the door. You have 3,000 people [who] broke the door outside and for security reasons the police asked us to close the lounge. We apologize to you. It has nothing to do with us.
Following news of the death of mother-of-two Ikumelo, Asake said she was “devastated” and “overwhelmed with grief”. He said: “My deepest condolences to his loved ones at this time. Let’s keep his family in our prayers. I have spoken to them and will continue to do so.
The Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation. Two other women, aged 21 and 23, are hospitalized in critical condition.
Police were called to the scene around 9.35pm after reports of a large number of people trying to break in. The Met said officers found several people with “injuries believed to have been caused by a crush”.
Asake fans told the Guardian that upon arriving at the event, they were directed to the back of the venue and then down a side alley, with no one checking their tickets as they joined the crowd.
“To the right of me was the wall of the building and to the left was a bunch of cars, parked. So we are surrounded. There were no cordons, no barricades, no staff at all except for two men at the top of the queue,” Daniel said.
At around 8:30 p.m., she said, “we had our tickets ready, and then suddenly the crowd rushed in. I think no matter what was going on in front I couldn’t see clearly, someone must have gotten frustrated and started pushing. I started to choke because everyone started moving and pushing and we were already stuck.
She added that it was extremely cold on Thursday evening, with the temperature well below freezing, suggesting fans without tickets would likely not have queued for so long in freezing conditions.
Some time later, as the crowd tried to make their way up the steps to the venue, she said: ‘Security moved the barricades over there to surround us again so there was no way out. in the streets without jumping over a barricade”.
Comparing the circumstances to the controversial ‘kettling’ tactic sometimes used by police to control crowds, she said: “I was stuck, I didn’t know where to go. If I tried to get deeper into the wave, I might be crushed there, but if I stayed on the edge, my back was against a metal barrier, and I was afraid that if the crowd moved back, my back would would break against her. ”
Daniel said a security guard eventually helped her and several other women out of the crowd, telling them the concert would be halted and they would be safer to leave.
Another fan, who managed to enter the concert and wished to remain anonymous, criticized the lack of security outside the venue.
“It was the most disorganized thing I’ve ever seen: there was a group of people queuing, some people pushing forward, and there was literally a security guard as far as the eye could see.” , she said.
Commenting on reports of ticketless fans trying to force their way in, she said: “I just think the wrong message was sent initially – that the people outside were hooligans. Most people there had tickets. Two of my friends were there and didn’t make it and I know for a fact they had tickets.
Ife Thompson, a lawyer with Black Protest Legal Support (BPLS), set up to independently monitor police actions during Black Lives Matter protests, said she had spoken to people who had tickets but had were excluded from the event.
“The doors were closed, so effectively people were queuing for no reason: they weren’t dispersed and told to go home,” she said. BPLS collects testimonials about the event to create a community timeline.
“We see with the Asake concert a willingness to blame it on the people who were outside, many of whom were real victims themselves, instead of saying ‘how could we have better crowd management? ‘, ‘how did we get to a place where there was a lack of crowd control that resulted in Rebecca Ikumelo being killed and many others injured?’” Thompson said.
Local MP Florence Eshalomi called for a full investigation into what happened, saying it was clear that “ticketing and security procedures did not work as they should have”.
Cokobar, one of the ticket sellers involved in promoting the event, said he was allocated 685 tickets and only sold that number, referring any further questions to the venue. Participants were promised a refund.
A spokesperson for the venue said: ‘The O2 Academy Brixton fully supports the ongoing police investigation. All at O2 Academy Brixton and Academy Music Group are deeply saddened by the news of Rebecca Ikumelo’s tragic death. We send our deepest condolences to Rebecca’s family and friends, and our hearts go out to everyone affected by this devastating news at this extremely difficult time. »
Golden Met Police Commander Ade Adelekan described the incident as “extremely distressing” and urged any witnesses who had not yet spoken to police to get in touch.