Chicago, IL -- Police in Hammond, Indiana, shut down a benefit concert in the middle of an appeal to end violence by rap star Chief Keef, a Chicago native, as part of a seemingly concerted effort to censor the rapper.
Chief Keef appeared via hologram, as arrest warrants in neighboring Illinois prevented him from appearing in person. The Chicago rapper had just finished his set and begun speaking about the need to end the violence when police pulled the plug on his feed and cleared the stage.
According to a report in The Guardian:
The show, held in a public park and attended by 2,000 people, was planned as a benefit for Chief Keef’s friend Marvin Carr – a rapper known as Capo – and 13-month-old Dillan Harris, who killed on 11 July. Dillan was killed by a vehicle fleeing the scene of a shooting that killed Carr.
There were no reports of any violence, or actual cause for police to shut the show down, it was done simply as a means of censoring the prominent rapper.
“There was no violence. It was the police who did this,” Stefanae Coleman, 17, told the Chicago Tribune. “Everyone was happy … We went through the whole show without any problems. They just waited for Chief Keef, and that’s what irks me. (The police) do this, then they get mad that we’re mad. It’s disrespectful to us.”
The Gestapo-like actions of the local police comes on the heels of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s seeming complicity in the cancellation of a scheduled holographic performance by the rapper in Chicago just last weekend. Emanuel called the rapper an “unacceptable role model” who “promotes violence” and whose presence, even via hologram, “posed a significant safety risk.” A number of other cities followed suit and have also refused to allow the rapper to perform, even via hologram.
In a seemingly unconstitutional move, aimed at censoring the rapper, Hammond cops claim to have warned promoters that the rapper was banned.
“We spoke to the promoter several times, and they assured us [Chief Keef] would not be performing,” Hammond police commander Patrick Vicari told the Chicago Tribune. “Later, an officer working the show realized it was being streamed on one of the hip-hop sites, and promoters were warned again they would be shut down.”
Hammond's mayor revealed a stunning level of incompetence when he basically claimed to know nothing about the rapper, but was simply following the orders passed down by a larger municipality. Taken to an extreme, this type of activity could eventually censor any artist with a message that is not state approved.
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“I know nothing about Chief Keef,” Hammond’s mayor, Thomas McDermott, told the New York Times. “All I’d heard was he has a lot of songs about gangs and shooting people – a history that’s anti-cop, pro-gang and pro-drug use. He’s been basically outlawed in Chicago, and we’re not going to let you circumvent Mayor Emanuel by going next door.”
The truth in McDermott’s words must be noted as he states that Chicago has “basically outlawed” the rapper. This edict by Emanuel would seemingly be in direct contradiction to the First Amendment, as a city cannot put a blanket ban on artistic performances by a particular artist.
The chief executive of Hologram USA, which sponsors Chief Keef, Alki David, said
“Shame on the mayor and police chief of Hammond for shutting down a voice that can create positive change in a community in desperate need. And for taking away money that could have gone to help the victims’ families. This was a legal event and there was no justification to shut it down besides your glaring disregard for the First Amendment right to free speech. Mark my words, if you censor us, you only make us stronger.”
The blatant disregard for the First Amendment, shown by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, displays an utter contempt for a citizen's right to express their thoughts and ideas.
Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed it beautifully in a 2002 ruling:
The government cannot constitutionally premise legislation on the desirability of controlling a person’s private thoughts. First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.
When a city attempts to put an unofficial blanket ban on specific artistic performances; you may just live in a police state. Even the most seemingly repugnant speech must be protected for true liberty to flourish.
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Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay's work has been published on BenSwann's Truth in Media, Chris Hedges' truth-out, AlterNet and many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.