Rage Against the Machine, a rap metal band known for its revolutionary politics, will perform opposite the Republican National Convention on Sept. 3 at the Target Center in Minneapolis and members of the band will appear at a Labor Day union rally in St. Paul. The last time the band played opposite a convention was during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 2000. And that didn’t go so well. (Video shows the band’s performance and the crowds fleeing police at the end).
The group had planned to play a concert to protest America’s two-party political system, but the city told them they had to play a small venue far from the convention. The band sued and won a place near the convention.
In anticipation of the show, the Los Angeles Police Department beefed up security around the event, and the actions of several unruly audience members soon escalated into a riot where police allegedly attacked reporters, lawful audience members and passersby.
RATM rapper Zack de la Rocha said after the show: “I don’t care what fucking television stations said, [that] the violence was caused by the people at the concert; those motherfuckers unloaded on this crowd. And I think it’s ridiculous considering, you know, none of us had rubber bullets, none of us had M16s, none of us had billy clubs, none of us had face shields.”
RATM is known for its activism both on and off the stage. Band members have been prominent supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), an indigenous Mayan social movement in southern Mexico. Guitarist Tom Morello was arrested at a textile workers’ union protest in the early 1990s against clothing manufacturer Guess?, and the band subsequently bought billboards reading, “Rage Against Sweatshops: We Don’t Wear Guess? – A Message from Rage Against the Machine and UNITE (Union of Needletrades Industrial and Textile Employees).”
Morello will continue his labor activism by performing at the Take Back Labor Day Festival within earshot of the convention on Sept. 1. Also scheduled to attend are British folk/punk artist Billy Bragg, Grammy-winning American rapper Lupe Fiasco, alt-country artist Steve Earle, and actor and hip hop artist Mos Def. The protest is hosted by the Service Employees International Union.