Two Hawke's Bay Regional Prison inmates who staged a 24-hour rooftop protest have admitted their part in a riotous incident that made national headlines on June 7.

Leo Winitana, 19 and City Timu, 19, appeared in Hastings District Court yesterday and pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly arising from the uproar that began in the prison's Wing 3 unit about 4pm.

Together with fellow inmates, Hohepa Joseph Sullivan, 21, Montana Kelly, 31 and Sio Muliipu, 23, the two became agitated after Muliipu was told his classification had been increased to maximum security.

About 4pm Muliipu refused to be locked in his cell and became aggressive towards staff. Police claim Kelly then incited the wing's six other inmates by yelling: "Let's do it. Let's go to war, we're Mongrel Mob, we fight together''.

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Guards were then forced to withdraw before the group barricaded themselves inside and used table legs as threatening weapons and to smash property.

The prison's Advanced Calm and Restraint Team was deployed and about 1am most of the group surrendered and were extracted.

The remaining five refused to comply. Winitana then broke a hole in a cell wall which gave them access to a ceiling cavity, before he smashed through a skylight and gained access to the roof.

Once atop the prison gymnasium they allegedly threatened and abused staff throughout the day and night. Police claim Kelly threatened to throw anyone off the roof if approached.

The group made Mongrel Mob gestures to media flying overhead in helicopters, yet eventually surrendered about 4pm on June 8.

A reparation figure for the destroyed property had yet to be tallied.

During yesterday's appearance a handcuffed Winitana, who also pleaded guilty to a charge of intentional damage, made gang gestures and lifted his shirt to show the court's public gallery a large tattoo on his abdomen.

In December 2009, City Timu, also handcuffed in the dock yesterday, was sentenced to five years and six months in prison after a vicious attack on an off-duty Napier police detective.

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Judge Bridget Mackintosh convicted and remanded both teenagers in custody for sentencing on November 10.

Kelly, Sullivan and Muliipu have yet to plea.

Unlawful assembly carries a maximum penalty of one year's imprisonment.