US musicians on strike against racism

August 28, 2010

The introduction in May of a racist law targetting immigrants in the US state of Arizona has sparked a powerful movement from wide sections of US society. It has also sparked the biggest movement of musicians in the US since the times of South African apartheid, with a growing number of artists refusing to play in Arizona in protest.

The musicians are organised through Sound Strike, an organisation initiated in May by Rage Against the Machine (RATM) lead singer Zach de la Rocha and film-maker Michael Moore.

It quickly won support from acts as varied as Sonic Youth, Cypris Hill, Kanye West, Conor Oberst, Massive Attack and Gogol Bordello. On July 23, RATM headlined a show in support of Sound Strike in Los Angeles.

The number of acts signing on, listed at, has grown at time of writing to more than 450. Below is the abridged call launching Sound Strike issued by De la Rocha on May 25.

* * *

We are reaching out to get your ear for a minute about this critical situation in Arizona.

The Arizona state legislature passed a bill (SB 1070) that legalises racial profiling. Straight up.

It forces cops to hunt down and target anyone they “reasonably suspect” may be undocumented. If the people they harass don’t have proof they were born in the US, they can be arrested. This must be stopped.

Fans of our music can be harassed every day because they are brown or black, or for the way they speak, or the music they listen to. People who are poor could be forced to live in a constant state of fear just doing what they can to work and survive.

This law opens the door for them to be detained or even deported while just trying to travel to school or work, or when they just roll out with their friends.

Some of us grew up dealing with racial profiling, but this law takes it to a whole new low. If other states follow this direction, we could be headed towards a pre-civil rights era reality.

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person in Alabama in 1955, they arrested her. As a result, people got together and said we are not going to ride the bus until they change the law.

We are not going to play in Arizona. We are going to boycott Arizona!

Below: Rage Against the Machine perform “Bulls on Parade” at a July 23 concern in Los Angeles in support of Sound Strike. The video includes footage from the concert at The Hollywood Palladium as well as from the civil resistance in Arizona that took place on July 29.

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