RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE acapella protest jam RNC – An Eyewitness Account
- Posted on September 3, 2008
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE was scheduled to make their first performance in Minnesota since their hiatus tonight at the Target Center, but they surprised demonstrators yesterday evening at the Ripple Effect non-partisan demonstration event in front of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul with a festival-ending a cappella performance that began a march towards the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center. Ripple Effect was a scheduled demonstration in support of sustainability, activism, political awareness, and self-actualization, and it was originally expected to feature performances from ANTI-FLAG, I SELF DEVINE, DEAD PREZ, MICHAEL FRANTI, WOOKIEFOOT and MATISYAHU and speeches from Medea Benjamin and Will Steger among others. After a day of performances directing postive support towards non-partisan (yet decidely liberal) causes, ANTI-FLAG announced that it was important that the crowd stay around "because things [were] about to get crazy".
As soon as this was said, I looked to the back of the stage and saw RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE surrounded by a troop of Minnesota state patrol officers! The crowd quickly became aware of the high possibility of a performance by RATM, and began to direct the protest chants in support of the cause. After an entire afternoon peacefully celebrating these positive concepts that I described above, we sang along in unison of our support to let the heavily armed officers know who we wanted to see play: "Who's capitol? Our capitol!", "FREE PRESS! FREE PRESS!", "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me!", "…in the lannnnd of the freee!, anddd the home of thhheeee braaave!!", "music is not a crime!", "LET THEM PLAY!!!" LET RAGE PLAY!!!". Although the fans in attendance were very diverse, the objective of the demonstration was clear, aware, liberal, and focused – and we wanted to see RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE push us over the edge. However, the Minnesota police, the snipers on the roofs, paramilitary troops blanketing the city, and other supporters of the GOP unfortunately had their way and RATM was never allowed to take the stage to play their instruments that night.
Instead, Zach, Tom, Tim, and Brad made their way into the middle of the crowd to perform one of the most intimate sets of their entire career. As the entire audience sat down around the band, the entire crowd launched into a highly inspired accapella jam of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE protest classics like "Bulls on Parade" and "Know Your Enemy" that were led by Zach on megaphone and a rhythm section of Tom, Tim, and Brad on hand-clapping! While Tom Morello may have been relegated to clapping along with the rest of us instead of playing his wah-heavy guitar anthems, the intention of the performance was even more evident as a result. For nearly fifteen minutes, RATM led the focused movement through a set of songs that only helped to reaffirm the definitive values which were shared by all in attendance. "Rally round your family, with a pocket full of shells".. "… Some of those who hold office… Are the same that burn crosses!"..
Immediately after the band concluded their brief performance, they turned southeast and urged all of those in attendance to proceed peacefully as they marched unannounced in the direction of the Xcel Energy Center and the Republican National Convention contained within. In the hours that followed, I and the people of the United States peaceably (albeit loudly and confidently) marched in a defiant parade through the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota in a unified voice opposing the "war against the poor". After a mile long journey we arrived at the convention, and even then the crowd remained polite and responsible. However, following twenty minutes of songs and chants outside the convention , the heavily armed contingent of war veterans and national guard members who formed the police coalition there that night informed us that they would begin to "shoot us, pepper us, and arrest us if we didn't leave within twenty minutes". The only weapon that any of us carried to the convention that night was our voices, but it seems as if that was enough to set the police state in motion all across the city to silence our agenda. Within minutes, their announcement the police began to beat us back with tear gas bombs, batons, and rubber bullets at numerous locations and the peaceful protest that RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, MICHAEL FRANTI, and ANTI-FLAG began on the capitol hill was dispersed.
On the local news that night the peaceful march is never mentioned, only condemnations of the minimal outbursts on the outskirts by so-called "violent anarchists". Tomorrow a new march on the convention is sure to begin.