Monday, October 13, 2008

The RNC Protests and Ted Leo's Rapid Response

(photo: Shawn Brackbill)

(essentially, Deep Cutz State of the Union Part 4!)

Labor Day in St. Paul - Protests at the Republican National Convention were quashed in militaristic fashion by police, in complete disregard of constitutional rights.

Ted Leo: The Deep Cutz Interview
Jeff Milo

“In the world they’ve created, there is no accountability…”

Indeed – this came from the message Ted Leo provided with the Rapid Response EP – which he and his band, the Pharmacists recorded in a matter of days as a way of somehow contributing to the “real people” who had their rights trampled upon during the Republican National Conventions – (digital proceeds went to help those who had incurred bail fees, and to Democracy Now! and Minnesota—Food Not Bombs!)

What Happened: Police conducted “pre-emptive” pre-convention raids on homes of suspected protesters with warrants signed by Ramsey County Judges under suspicion of conspiracy and intent to incite a riot. (Update and review of the event, including recent news of a lawsuit brought against the city of St. Paul...)

Protesters were planning an anti-war march, as a simultaneous statement for peace, and against the characteristic policies of the Republican Party, during the convention

We’re talking the thrift-store shopping, casual hip/hop listening, open-minded, organic food eating, friendly and affable neo-hippie types…

They were met with foam tipped plastic rounds, tear gas, batons, horses, riot-gear, pepper gas, concussion grenades

It was described by numerous witnesses, and by those who were arrested, as a militarized zone with cops deployed in military formations, using military tactics…not discriminating between those actually causing trouble and those protesting peacefully…
Civil rights be damned…

800 people arrested, including nearly 50 journalists.

When they lock up the reporters – it is left to the artists to make a statement – and Ted has delivered in true valiant protest-singer form.

Ted Leo’s Rapid Response EP

(listen: Ted Leo - "the Sons of Cain")

Being such a geeked-out fist-pumpin wall-bouncing enthusiast for Ted Leo’s bristly energetic soul-meets-punk-via-pop percolations and protest balladry – it was surreal to have an entire music-free interview – as we discussed the protests and police reaction during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul from September 1 – 4th.

The young, fiery idealists with their love of peace and rejection of war, were met with tear gas, concussion grenades and foam tipped plastic rounds by armor-clad officers clenching batons marching in militaristic formations upon what they saw as a pack of noisy unpredictable riot-inciters. Protesters planning an anti-war march on the convention were surrounded by SWAT – forcefully restrained in what was described as a “militarized zone.” When it was over 800 people (including about 50 journalists!!!) were arrested – freedom of speech be damned! “They locked up Amy Goodman what makes you think you’re gonna stay free?” Ted would soon sing.

By the following week, Leo, with his band, the Pharmacists, recorded and digitally released the Rapid Response EP – with the blistering and exertive “Paranoia (Never Enough)” written as a direct reaction, with and all download proceeds going to help any fees suffered by activists groups and Democracy Now!

This was serious – and it was weighing on Ted, sighing wearily when I asked how he was doing… “It would just depress you if I really got into it…”

Milo: What was your initial reaction…

Ted Leo: …only slightly more ramped up than my usual initial reaction to whatever I’m reading: ‘This is fucked, this makes me so angry…etc’ When you see the video of what went on out there, just the completely bullying dick-ish-ness with which people were getting shoved around, having all rationality ignored, being led away…[what] sent me over the edge was seeing video of this girl who is doing nothing but keeping pace with this marching phalanx of police, just walking holding out a flower, that’s all she’s doing, and this burly cop in full gear steps out of formation and repeatedly-repeatedly pepper sprays her in the face…even now I have a physical reaction…it’s insane! The next night you have Sarah Palin on stage making a laugh line of the idea that someone should be read his or her rights…

Milo: Does it concern you though – that reaction begets greater reaction, the more they push the more we fight back…so the HARDER they push…

TL: Absolutely… and I don’t have an answer for that. What can I say? It’s not as though these incidence happen in a vacuum, people develop their world view based on many factors in history.

Milo: Leading a protest surrounded by cops, Tom Morello said he’d wager some of the officers, though following orders, were actually, also, Rage Against The Machine fans…did that hit you during Rapid Reponse—‘who are these people?’

TL: I’ve had the experience of people coming up to me, saying ‘I like your music, but I don’t agree with your politics.’ I’ve also had people who, stereotypically, you wouldn’t associate with a fan, people in various uniforms who say they are down with the entire program. It brings up lots of questions, [like] who are these people? I don’t have the answers. I’m 100% sure that any of these kind of monolithic stereotypes that we use to describe any side of any cultural or philosophical divide are never as monolithic as they seem – they’re always more diverse. I’ve certainly seen my share of bullying people, whether physically or other ways of intimidating and I saw very similar things [in St. Paul] and the personality vibe I get, specifically, from Sarah Palin – I imagine all kinds of conspiratorial ideas about how this kind of paradigm of entitlement and irrationality has become a real, not just a mean, but a norm.

Milo: Eight years of Reagan helped spur the hardcore punk scene in the early 80’s (mostly be giving them a daunting common enemy) but I wonder why its taken longer to motivate palpable musical movements against Bush…

TL: well, I think that there are a lot of very specific factors that play into is that music, and the nature of music and the nature of interaction with music as a cultural force has really changed in the last 20 years, there is of course there's always been...a lot of signifying without understanding, what the signifiers were originally meant to signify within some cultures, but its really been blown open by the marketplace. Ideas and sounds that at one point you would've said--you wouldn’t have seen a band and considered them the pillar of integrity because even the sounds that they’re making are un-sellable, but I think we've found that anything can be sold if it's got the right kind of money and push behind it...that certainly de-fangs things, and then when you have another generation that grows up with an already de-fanged know, it makes a certain amount of sense that it wouldn't...that it becomes more diffuse and it loses a certain amount of power. It's not necessarily bemoaning that fact, it's just kind of the nature of the beast, there are other factors as well—I can tell you that I do try to use my voice in a way that I think...that I want to and that I think I should, which is by doing things like (Rapid Response)

After the first 4 years of Bush, I was just...completely dejected, I’ve put out a lot of music since then but I’m telling you right now, compared to the amount of stuff that I haven’t finished it's like a drop in the bucket because I just don't have the juice, I don't have the energy, I don't have a lot of the hope that I had in the first 4 years...

Milo: You’re playing on election-night – will you stay non-partisan that night?

TL: I don't attempt to be non-partisan, I also don't attempt to turn my shows into like rallies. When anybody enters into this mode of want to see that you do have an effect in ‘changing the world’ but,...I just try to express my thoughts about things; I try to make sense of what's going on for myself and by extension...other people, and hopefully help somebody else make sense of something or just make it through a day - thanks to music… in a way that music has been there for me in my life, so it's kind of in that spirit that I approach even something like playing on election day...whatever the outcome's gonna be...celebratory and cathartic and it's gonna be community reinforcing, and I feel like that's kind of...I feel pretty okay about the fact that that's kind of the extent of my powers, if you wanna go beyond gotta enter Sting or Bono territory and i really have no be Sting or Bono...

more info:

Rapid Response EP

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