All the Rage at the DNC

HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 15, 2000 – So, what did you expect them to do, if not rage? As those who follow music and politic undoubtedly know, the noise-metal-punk-hardcore-thrash, politically-left-of-center band called Rage Against the Machine performed a free concert yesterday for protesters outside the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

And we were there.

Given the blocked roads and tightened security, we left the car behind and took the local subway (yes, Virginia, there is an L.A. subway) to reach the Staples Center, where the shindig went down.

And despite fears of rioting and civil unrest, the scene was perfectly peaceful. Those who were protesting were protesting, those who were just curious were just hanging out, and those waiting for Rage Against the Machine to come on were quietly waiting.

Simply said, no one flashed us, and we didn’t witness any type of disturbance.

Police do their best to look ominous As for the police, there were a lot of them, most standing guard outside the Staple Center. But in all fairness, they, too, didn’t flash us, or accost us in any way.

As we were grooving on the good vibes, a voice suddenly announced that Rage Against the Machine was coming on. The crowd roared, bodies started gravitating to a makeshift stage that was dwarfed by the estimated 9,000 folks in attendance.

And while Rage frontman Zack De La Rocha uttered his opening remarks, “Our democracy has been hijacked,” we were caught amidst a mass of sweaty, smelly bodies so tightly packed that we figured nothing, not even seeing this anti-establishment rock group (which is contracted by the not-so-anti-establishment Sony label), was worth the effort.

That, plus the fact that we couldn’t make out what they were singing anyway.

And so we left, as quietly as we came, moved by the reality that protestors and concert-goers had done what they set out to do in a peaceful, non-violent manner, and that the cops had the integrity to recognize their rights and not go crack open heads.

Or so we thought.

Of course, when we got home, the news about what happened later awaited. Police fired bean bags and shot pepper spray at the crowd, after demonstrators reportedly threw rocks at the city’s finest. Several people were hurt and 10 were arrested. Ted Hayes, the famous homeless activist, was hit with a rubber bullet and hospitalized for the night.

And the scheduled performance by local hip hoppers Ozomatli — the second act of the Festival of Resistance concert — were cancelled.

It’s just like Chicago in 1968. Sort of.