Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Anti-Flag at The Republican National Convention, Day 1 Ripple Effect

The following is a first hand description/reporting of what went on Tuesday, September 2 on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, approximately 1.5 miles from the Xcel Center, site of this week's Republican National Convention. The event we played was called THE RIPPLE EFFECT ( and was put on by 3 enterprising young college students who run an organization called SUBSTANCE (, which merges music, art and activisim. The purpose of the event was two fold: 1) to offer a counter event to the corporate-fueled, undemocratic, lack of interaction with real people and real problems of the RNC taking place this week in Minneapolis-St. Paul; and 2) to celebrate Substance's one year of doing strong work in the Twin Cities of combining music, art and activism.

We had planned on being a part of the RNC disruption festivities since before the calendar turned to 2008. You don't spend the better part of 3 months creating a record like "The Bright Lights Of America" without thinking about the future and what additional ills politicians and corporations of all stripes might be preparing to sell us in an election year. In April that disruption was made easier when the Substance organization reached out to us about The Ripple Effect show, which we promptly agreed to join.

As the Spring and Summer election story developed, on our European dates with Rage Against The Machine we began discussing how to incorporate them into the musical discussion we were having in St. Paul on the Capital lawn. The plan was, backline both of our equipment at the same time, our crews would work together to make the transition from the end of the Anti-Flag set to the beginning of the Rage Against The Machine set.

The following is a chronicle of the days events:
Anti-Flag at The Republican National Convention, Day 1 Ripple Effect

Its 1:10. Tuesday September 2nd.
In the Van, left the hotel which is about 20min from St. Paul, the closest we could get.
Direct action gets the goods, as all the front pages sing of the protesters disrupting day one of the RNC festivities. As the people
Inside Excel Center use Gustav as a do over for Katrina, the people outside demand accountability.

We're almost there. We enter the State Capitol parking lot at 1:15.
#2 is more anxious and nervous than usual.

Watched Wookiefoot and Matisyahu bring the good vibes, police perimeter is interestingly frightening: snipers-observers on the roof of a building about 400 yards from the stage; battalions of St. Paul police on bikes; State Capitol police/troopers mingle within the crowd and linger on the edges; riot police are suited up, holding their helmets sitting on their unmarked mini-vans. Around 1000 people have made their way through the lines, been searched. Approved to participate in free speech.

The back drop is pretty great. Right on the capital lawn, centered at the bottom of the Capitol building steps, American Flag snapping in the stiff wind, statues of Minnesota heroes of 19th Century public deed as the entry gates to the stage.

In communication with Rage Against the Machine. Looking like they're going to bring their songs to the Ripple Effect. We'll play then hand them the stage, should be a cluster fuck, but an exciting cluster fuck.

They make an announcement Dead Prez is on next. They taunt the extended and now growing collection of police, laughing at their intimidation efforts. In the crowd a giant appears. Michael Franti is now here. So are the mounted police.

Michael Franti brings 12 members of The Iraq Veterans Against The War on stage.
To say it was powerful is an understatement.

Rage's gear arrives. We'll see if they pull the plug on this. We heard some grumblings of our little secret in the crowd while walking
around, but we don't think many know what's coming.

Rage's equipment arrives, so does the rest of the riot squad.

In between each band are speakers: quick and to the point; railing against the stupid war; criticizing the establishment for their reaction to people wanting health care and a way out of poverty; general equality. 1200 miles away in New York Harbor the Statue of Liberty rusts a little more.

Our set is over. Went well, as did the whole day. Extremely peaceful. Its days like today that give hope in humanity. It's also days like today that show how much work is still left.

We had it set so that we would end and Rage would go on immediately. They got out of their car and 7-10 police officers blocked them from making it to the stage--not even allowed to watch us play. An argument/debate ensued whereby Rage, us, the event organizers and others argue that the police have no authority to keep Rage from performing. Timmy C, bass player of Rage Against The Machine, suggests very cleverly that the "meeting" with the police move into the view of the audience assembled at the show, this leads to cheers from the audience who start getting involved.

After about 15-20min of the crowd chanting "let them play" and a spontaneous singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" (which was an absolutely moving rendition of the National Anthem), we devise a plan. We gave Rage one of our bullhorns, and they walked into the audience. Everyone at the show was awesome, sitting so that others could see, being quite while Zack and Tom from Rage spoke. Singing guitar lines, Timmy C and Brad Wilk of Rage kept time while a cappella versions of "Bulls on Parade" and "Killing In The Name Of" sang out through the crowd.

Post show a few hundred joined a poverty march, that we hear ran into police near the Excel Center, we hope everyone returned safe from that endeavor.

We would like to send a huge thank you and debt of gratitude to Substance, all the artists and musicians at the Ripple Effect, and
Rage Against The Machine.

They are not afraid of any song, any record, any band.
They are afraid of the relationships we create, the community we build, the strength in our unity.




Emile said...


Sandi said...

So awesome!!!

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