I was on my way downtowm this morning when I got a text about a surprise show by the Prophets of Rage, a supergroup that would make any 90’s kid squeal with delight: Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine with B Real from Cypress Hill and Public Enemy leader Chuck D. A stream of actvists moved in with flyers and T-shirts for their various causes. End Poverty Now, the organisation hosting the event, was joined by the International Workers of the World, a fringe-left labour union in existence since 1905, Cleveland’s local Communist party, Peace In The Hood, and several other offshoot organisations of the Black Lives Matter movement. The crowd was as white as it was black, as old as it was young. Surprisingly, most of the people I spoke to were not there specifically to hear the band, but to participate in the post-show march and support the many causes. Leatrice, a 50-year-old woman from Cleveland said her city “has been through a lot” and she was here to support her people. A young woman with the Peace In The Hood movement said she was here to promote peace and had only heard Rage Against The Machine’s music “a few times”.
Several local musical artists and poets took to the stage to voice opinions and protest, touching on a wide range of topics from universal healthcare to the deaths of black men shot by police. Food and water was donated, with volunteers in T-shirts reading “Food Not Bombs” carrying giant trays around to the crowd offering various rice and pita dishes.
Prophets of Rage took to the stage near 2:30 p.m. to a crowd of nearly 300 who were treated to a short but fiery set as the band opened with a new song, “The Party’s Over” and rolled through hits, many of them twenty years unheard, like “Guerilla Radio”, “Sleep Now In The Fire”, “Bulls on Parade”, and of course, ending with “Killing In The Name Of…”
There wasn’t much of a mosh pit, the heat and humidity had drained so much physical energy from the crowd and most of us original fans of the three bands represented are simply too old to be jumping into moshpits without breaking major bones, but the crowd was not completely without energy, especially the young’uns, and we all sang along to the songs we knew.
Following a blistering “Killing In The Name Of”, B Real announces, “Let’s march, people, and the crowd immediately obliged, filtering out from the park and assembling along E. 46th St. NNearly one police officer for every three marchers was along to escort us all downtown, most of them on bikes. Generous people and volunteer medics along the parade route handed out bottled waters, even when you didn’t ask for one. I had stopped just to yawn and a woman put a water bottle into my outstretched hand, which by the time we hit E. 17th Street, I was greatful she did.
I was gradually melting into the pavement on Superior Ave. and didn’t realise until the march was half over that I’d been walking a few feet behind Tom Morello that whole way. A dozen thoughts come pulsing through my brain at once, and the one I settled on started with a handshake.
“I owe you thank yous for the last 25 years but that would take too long, so I’m only going to say it once. Thank you for everything.”
He smiled and responded in thanks to me, then I nodded Brad Wilk’s way and allowed myself to fall back into the crowd. I said exactly what I needed to. I spent the rest of the journey in a daze, part of it heat-induced, part of it remembering everything about the music Morello helped create that influenced the person I’ve now become.
I had had all I could take of the heat and humidity and I had to pee, so I bolted from the route near E. 14th and headed over to Starbucks for a tall dark roast and a shot of espresso for good measure. I had set up my portable office in the upstairs room and was eventually joined at my table by several Massachusetts police officers taking a break. We all greeted each other and I asked how things were going. I was told “excellent” and several mentioned that we have a “beautiful city”.
The subject drifted toward football, because when you’re talking to men somehow the conversation always ends up on football. “So I reckon you’re all Patriots fans?” They all nodded and said yes almost in unison.
“Yes”, said the cop sitting nearest to me. “We all worship this god called Tom Brady.”
“Yeah, well, Goldenballs is gonna be sittin’ his old ass in a recliner at home watching the first four games this season.”
The whole lot of them were silent and that’s when I realised maybe I shouldn’t have said that. One officer saved the day and said Brady’s old ass could use a month off.
I just said this morning one of my only two goals was to not get arrested and here I am fucking with a bunch of New England cops talking shit about Tom Brady. There’s eight of them and and one of me. Some day I will learn to keep my smart mouth shut around the boys in blue, but today was not that day.
In real news, an attempt by several states’ delegates to alter committee rules as a rebellion against Trump was ultimately quashed by GOP officials and led to the entire Colorado delegation walking out of the convention. Eleven states total had submitted petitions for the changes.
Day One speakers included former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, and actor Antonio Sabato, Jr.
Tomorrow will feature more RNC action as the Pressure Life team ventures out to interview anyone brave enough to speak to us, including an exclusive interview with an international diplomat about the state of his country and its special relationship with the United States, so stay tuned!