HAMMOND, IN — Police showed up in force to shut down a concert fundraiser one minute after the holographic likeness of an “unacceptable role model” was projected on stage: rapper “Chief Keef.”
The show, dubbed “Craze Fest,” attracted approximately 2,000 fans to the Wolf Lake Pavilion in Hammond on the evening of Saturday, July 25th, 2015. The rap show had a “Stop the Violence” theme, and was raising money for Dillan Harris, the 13-month-old boy struck by a motorist fleeing police earlier this month. The show featured several live performers, including rappers Lil Bibby, Jacqueese, Tink and Riff Raff.
Originally planned in Chicago, the event was driven out of the city because of threats from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, City Hall caused the original venue to cancel the event because the event promoter advertised that a realistic 3-D image of rapper Chief Keef (real name Keith Cozart) was going to be included in the show. Apparently Chief Keef’s music and likeness are being officially censored in Chicago because of the rapper’s history of legal trouble.
Kelley Quinn, spokeswoman to Chicago Mayor Emanuel, told the Sun-Times: “The reasons were pretty clear: Not only is he an unacceptable role model, but he promotes violence.”
The fundraiser was then rescheduled at a new venue in another state — 25 miles away in Hammond, Indiana. Event organizer Alki David (Greek billionaire, owner of HologramUSA, and CEO of FilmOn.com) again planned to project a 3-D image of Chief Keef at the show, while the rapper performed remotely from another state.
This time the government of Hammond intervened, and warned the crew not to play any songs by rapper Chief Keef. Event organizer Malcolm Jones said that a representative from the Hammond mayor’s office visited him shortly before the show and demanded that the hologram of Chief Keef be omitted. “No one ever gave me a reason why they didn’t want the hologram to appear,” Mr. Jones said, according to the New York Times. “They didn’t have a real reason.”
Despite the threats, the show went on as planned, and after some live music, a hologram of Chief Keef appeared on stage. His first words, broadcast from Beverly Hills, were: “Everybody in Chicago, all the kids: if you’ve got goals, achieve them; if you’ve got dreams, believe them. Stop the violence. Stop the killing. Stop the nonsense. Let the kids grow up.”
Police moved in to shut down the entire show before the rapper’s first song was finished. Over twenty Hammond police cruisers showed up with lights and sirens, and officers rushed the stage with flashlights and forcibly cut the music. The screen went black. Police ordered the attendees — who had paid between $50-$80 for tickets — to disperse around 10:25 p.m.
The 2,000 disappointed attendees dispersed in an orderly fashion. There were no arrests, citations, or incidents as the venue was cleared. The stunning police intervention had been executed without a single law being broken.
Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr., who was ultimately responsible for the concert censorship, told the New York Times that Chicago politics had influenced his decision: “I know nothing about Chief Keef. All I’d heard was he has a lot of songs about gangs and shooting people — a history that’s anti-cop, pro-gang and pro-drug use. He’s been basically outlawed in Chicago, and we’re not going to let you circumvent Mayor Emanuel by going next door.”
Upset supporters decried the censorship and the flagrant suppression of free speech.
“There was no violence. It was the police who did this,” said concertgoer Stefanae Coleman, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Everyone was happy… We went through the whole show without any problems.”
“Shame on the mayor and police chief of Hammond for shutting down a voice that can create positive change in a community in desperate need. And for taking away money that could have gone to help the victims’ families,” said event planner Alki David. “This was a legal event and there was no justification to shut it down besides your glaring disregard for the first amendment right to free speech. You’ve clearly been bullied by the proud Mayor of the Murder Capitol of the U.S., Rahm Emanuel. Mark my words if you censor us you only make us stronger. Plus we’ll be back to sue your asses.”
While the character of the controversial rap star is certainly up for debate, the principle of free speech and free assembly must be rigorously defended — regardless of the message and the messenger. If this naked censorship effort is allowed to stand the test of the coming lawsuit, it would cast an ominous shadow over America’s most cherished liberty.
Readers are encouraged to politely express their concerns over censorship to the responsible agencies: