Rage Against the Immigration Laws
While Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray and a handful of Democratic Senators were busy outflanking their Republican colleagues on the right in the we hours of the morning of May 27 by crafting the most conservative immigration measure to hit the state in a good long time, Zac de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine was equally busy spearheading a musical boycott of Arizona, where the most draconian immigration law in the country (SB 1070) has already prompted significant outrage. “The Sound Strike”—as the boycott is called—has attracted outspoken musicians from Kanye West to Sonic Youth, with others getting on board as I write. (The full list of artists who have joined the Sound Strike can be seen at http://www.thesoundstrike.com ) They are protesting a law that has been widely criticized for encouraging law enforcement to detain anyone who looks Latino. Why Massachusetts would want to get on that bandwagon remains a mystery.
The Sound Strike has yet to attract any of the big name pop or rock acts that can sell out stadiums and no country acts have yet joined the cause. But it has galvanized Latino artists across the musical spectrum. Linda Ronstadt, an Arizonan of Mexican descent, has spoken out against the law. Larry Hernandez, Billboard’s Latin Artist of the Year, called the law “deplorable” during his acceptance speech. And Colombian-born Shakira flew to Phoenix to meet with the city’s Mayor Phil Gordon, who opposes the legislation, and to denounce the law as “a violation of human and civil rights.” Those who have signed on to the boycott as of this writing include Juanes, Calle 13, Los Tigres del Norte, and Café Ta Cuba.
A boycott of this nature has special significance for many of the popular Mexican-American acts such as singer-songwriter Jenni Rivera, Espinoza Paz and Conjunto Primavera that regularly tour Arizona. Attendance at their concerts was already down due to what Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski called “the fear factor.” Apparently local law enforcement has been conducting “crime suppression sweeps” of fans exiting these popular concerts. Such “sweeps” do not occur at rock or country concerts. As Alfredo Gutierrez, chairman of the economic sanctions committee of Somos America, a coalition of human rights and religious groups that is leading opposition to the law, told the New York Times: “It’s a purely racial, Hispanic thing, ethnic profiling at its worst.”
Boycott organizers have promised to continue to get artists to boycott Arizona and have planned further activities like a project modeled after the Sun City anti-apartheid video, which urged artists not to perform at the Sun City entertainment complex in then-apartheid South Africa.
It would be a shame and a setback if an Arizona-like fear factor came to Massachusetts. Perhaps the music community in this state should mount an offensive to head that off at the pass.
This article was simultaneously published at http://reebee.net/ .