July 9, 2008

Justice for Rebel Diaz!

The story of Rebel Diaz will spread all over the planet and live beyond our time, because it is truly extraordinary. Young men whose lives were impacted by TWO traumatic 9/11 events, somehow remained determined to stand up for liberty, for justice and freedom. Rebel Diaz have been tormented and harassed and could possibly go to jail for defending someone they thought with less power than they had. Learn more about Rebel Diaz:
The NYPD Rips Up Rappers Rebel Diaz and their
hip-hop po
litics run afoul of the cops
By Tom Robbins,
Village Voice

July 7 2008
On June 18, a pair of brothers named Rodrigo and Gonzalo Venegas decided to take a friend visiting from Chicago for a city tour. The brothers Venegas, who comprise two-thirds of the activist hip-hop group known as Rebel Diaz, are big on the Bronx, and one of the sites they wanted to show their pal was the wonderful wall mural dedicated to the late rapper Big Pun on Westchester Avenue in Hunts Point.
Gonzalo Venegas, 22, whose rap name is G1, tells what happened when they reached the corner of Westchester and Simpson Street: "We see police picking up boxes of street vendors' product and throwing it away. This one vendor was looking all bewildered and helpless. We approached him, and he says in Spanish that he doesn't understand why they are taking his stuff."
The pair asked the police if it was all right for them to translate. The cops, Gonzalo says, didn't seem to have a problem. One of the officers explained that there were health-department violations, but others became belligerent, he says, and told the brothers to butt out. This degenerated further when the brothers asked for badge numbers.
It is important here to understand that in addition to being rappers, the brothers Venegas—whose Chilean parents fled into exile after Pinochet's coup—are also organizers. In fact, the slogan of their group is: "If Hip Hop organized, the whole world would be in trouble." It is not a coincidence that one of their big tunes is a rap version of the old labor standard "Which Side Are You On?" This is sung with the familiar, ominous minor-key drone of the title, while hip-hop lyrics pound alongside: "This music is resistance/It's the voice of the poor." [You can view/hear it in the next post] Rebel Diaz, which, along with G1, include 27-year-old Rodrigo ("RodStarz") and Teresita Ayala, a/k/a Lah Tere, see their music as an organizing tool. One of the areas they focus on is police behavior—hence the brothers' decision to ask about the officers' identities.
"This one officer started to get a little agitated," says Gonzalo. "He says, 'Back up. Get back on the sidewalk.' We said, 'Well, we will be on our way when we get the badge numbers.' One of them puts his hand over his badge so we couldn't see it. I pull out a piece of paper and a pen and begin to write down the number. At this point, the officer goes to grab my arm, and all of a sudden, there is this rush of police."
Thanks to the miracle of modern gadgetry, what followed was recorded by the friend from Chicago on the video device on his cell phone. The resulting video, visible on YouTube and the Rebel Diaz website, shows police grappling with the brothers, pinning them down, and cuffing them.[...]
From this point the story becomes truly Kafkaesque:
[...] "Yeah, they were pains in the asses at certain points. They got involved with some police action," said Detective Martin Speechley. "Two wannabe hip-hop guys decided they didn't like someone being written a summons. And they got involved, and they tried to fight us, and they went to jail for it. Kind of what happens when people are idiots."
This is not how the police usually talk about arrests, but take it as an indication of the kind of animosity that simmers barely beneath the surface these days. The attitude is troubling to Norman Siegel, the civil-rights lawyer who is representing the brothers. "The middle-of-the-night visit by NYPD is very questionable," he says. "We have to get answers to who ordered it, and what was the rationale."
Indeed. Read the whole story here:
Here’s the web site for Rebel Diaz:
Thank you, Rebel Diaz, for reinvigorating the glorious and righteous “Which Side Are You On?” The next two posts will treat your ears while making your heart race and blood pound for JUSTICE!

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