Musicians Speak Out on Police Brutality

Revolutionary Worker #921, Aug. 31, 1997

Anger at the torture of Abner Louima found expression in musical quarters this week, as performers spoke out from the stage and over the airwaves.

Wyclef Jean of the Fugees called MTV News from Amsterdam to comment on the brutalization of Abner Louima: "Unfortunately, this is one situation out of many," Wyclef told MTV. Referring to the epidemic of police brutality, Wyclef said, "This happens every day in the community. And I think that some sort of justice needs to be done because right now it looks like what is supposed to be protecting us is now harming us. And that is definitely not right." MTV reported that Wyclef had just completed filming a Public Service Announcement for the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality. The PSA calls on people to send in the names of all those who have been killed by police to the Stolen Lives Project and features samples from Wyclef's rap about his own experience with police brutality.

At a concert in East Rutherford, New Jersey, August 20--where Rage Against the Machine were on tour with Wu-Tang Clan--Zack De La Rocha stopped the music to comment on how throughout their whole tour the media had endlessly warned about the dangers of bringing Wu-Tang and Rage into town, claiming they would cause trouble and disrupt society. "But from what I read about New York City, it's the police that are causing all the violence, not rap music or our fans.

"You gotta be the jury. You got the power. Make it happen," Zack told the crowd of more than 20,000. "It's up to you to put that fascist cop in jail," he said, as thousands of fists went into the air, "Don't let them get away with torturing this Haitian brother!"

One fan who lives in the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn, five blocks from the police station where Abner Louima was tortured, told the RW, "The tension on the street was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Everyone's running around carrying plungers, and did you see those guys at the march on Saturday with machetes in their other hand? The people are furious."

Meanwhile at Club Rendez-Vous in Flatbush Brooklyn--the club where Abner Louima's ordeal began with a brutal arrest--King Kino of the Phantoms, a popular Haitian band, led the packed house in a salute to Abner. Holding candles that were passed out at the door, hundreds of Haitian youth waited for the signal: "Light the candles. Yes, we're here for Abner. He is a big fan of this group." As reported by Garry Pierre-Pierre in the New York Times, the Phantoms ripped into one of their most popular songs, "Cowboys"--about the paramilitary groups like Tonton Macoutes who brutalize and terrorize the people. But this night, the lyrics were changed: "I left Phantoms and the police grabbed me," King Kino sang, referring to Abner Louima. "Now I'm in the hospital bed. The Cowboys did that to me."

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