As I write this, the Occupy Wall Street movement is spreading across the country like wildfire, and although a list of demands have yet to come from a unified source or even deemed necessary, history has proven that it takes activists like the 99% to truly create change. The movement, which has remained mostly peaceful until recently when Occupy Oakland protesters got tear gassed and shot at with rubber bullets by the Oakland PD, has brought many musicians together in solidarity. Rage Against the Machine guitarist, Tom Morello, is one of them. When I heard he would be speaking at Occupy LA last week, I had to be there.
I was a serious RATM fan back in the day and directly blame the Grammy Award-winning guitarist's captivating riffs for breaking my pinkie while moshing at Lollapalooza circa 1993 (damn, I'm getting old!). I suppose I should've taped a Popsicle stick around my swollen little finger, but I was too scared to tell my parents that when I went to shows like Rage and Nirvana, I morphed into an animal. Today, I still suffer from the occasional headbanging-induced whiplash from my go-to karaoke performance of "Killing in the Name"--thank God no one's captured this on camera--but back to Occupy LA.
Morello is one of about a dozen artists supporting the cause that finally puts the wealthiest one percent in check. Other artists who've shown support include MC Hammer, Trent Reznor, Lupe Fiasco, Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, Doors drummer John Densmore, and Kayne West (well, kinda. Russell Simmons obviously strung him along that day). The former Audioslave and Street Sweeper Social Club guitarist, who now goes by his solo project, The Nightwatchman, is no stranger to activism. He co-founded the non-profit organization Axis of Justice with System of a Down frontman, Serj Tankian, a non-profit organization that brings together musicians and activists to fight for social justice,. Morello has now shown solidarity with Occupy SF, Seattle, Vancouver, Wall Street, and his hometown of LA.
At City Hall, a diverse group of protesters have been camped out for a month now--my photographer friend Noe Montes has captured the scene through portraits beautifully--and has the feel of an activist poster art exhibit. Signs read "Corps Are Not People," "How the Rich Stole America" and, my personal favorite, "Stop Believing in Authority and Start Believing in Each Other." Some represent the unemployed, uninsured, and fed up (as they should be when 500,000 people seem to be going for the same job) and others are average folks who constantly struggle to make ends meet. I also met a homeowner advocate from an organization who fights for those who've lost their homes.
Morello took to the top of the city hall steps and said, "I used to think I was alone. I'm not alone anymore." He went on to say history's not made by presidents and then used his all-power-to-people approach to speaking on the mic by making the crowd repeat after him. We captured his speech in the video below.
Check it out:
Kamren Curiel is a Digital Media Editor at Voto Latino and freelance writer for Remezcla and MTV Iggy. Her column, AMP (Art Music Politics), profiles artists and musicians who are dedicated to a cause.