6 Musicians Who Have Been Arrested for Their Political Beliefs
Two members of the all-female Russian political art collective and punk rock band Pussy Riot have recently been on a press tour in the U.S. after being released from prison in December. Back when the women were arrested two years ago, a flood of moral outrage at the Russian government’s blatant suppression of free speech poured from the West and gained the group and their cause a significant amount of international attention. As Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina continue to speak to the media about the gross human rights violations happening in Russia right now, here’s a look at six bands and musicians that have been arrested for their political activism.
The frontman of the rap-metal band Rage Against the Machine was arrested for civil disobedience when protesting with a union of garment workers against the use of sweatshop labor by the designer brand Guess. In October 1997 Morello took part in a march against Guess’ use of sweatshop labor in Santa Monica when he was arrested. Shortly after, the band took out billboard advertisements in Las Vegas and New York that read “Rage Against Sweatshops: We Don’t Wear Guess? — A Message from Rage Against The Machine and UNITE (Union of Needletrades Industrial and Textile Employees).”
Rage Against the Machine has been highly active politically on a number of issues. Aside from sweatshop labor, Morello and the band have been involved with organizations including the Anti-Nazi League, the United Farm Workers, Women Alive, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, National Commission for Democracy in Mexico, and many other national and international activist groups. The band has protested against censorship from the Parents Music Resource Center by standing on stage fully nude with the letters “PMRC” painted across their chests and campaigned with other musicians to close the prison Guantanamo Bay.
In 2000, the band held a free performance protesting the National Democratic Convention across the street from where the convention was being held. The performance incited a riot and many protesters were arrested. They repeated the move in 2008, performing in St. Paul, Minnesota while the Republican National Convention was being held and again fans were arrested.
“America touts itself as the land of the free, but the number one freedom that you and I have is the freedom to enter into a subservient role in the workplace. Once you exercise this freedom, you’ve lost all control over what you do, what is produced, and how it is produced. And in the end, the product doesn’t belong to you. The only way you can avoid bosses and jobs is if you don’t care about making a living. Which leads to the second freedom: the freedom to starve,” Morello said in an interview with Guitar World magazine.