May 27, 2013

Note by Alex Jones: We are staunch supporters of the First Amendment, but you can also see the perspective of the city of Houston. The locations listed for Kanye West’s flash performance range from public parks and spaces to private property. Whereas permits are not generally constitutional for political speech, they are for commercial purposes. Below is a video I shot in Houston at one of Kanye West’s locations – the George Herbert Walker Bush memorial.’s use of the site did not interfere with anyone else’s use of the public space and was purely historical and political speech.

Houston police shut down the public showing of a new music video by Kanye West at the Rothko Chapel on Friday night.

The rap superstar had announced the performance via Twitter and posted locations on his website, but when fans turned out in Houston they were threatened with arrest for trespassing, even though they were described as “upbeat” and “respectful.”

Police “pulled several cars onto the grass, flashed lights and sirens and demanded everyone leave or be arrested for trespassing. Folks slowly dispersed when it was clear this wasn’t part of the show,” the Houston Chronicle reported.

The West video is considered controversial due to its racially-charged content. It was also shut down at the Central Library in downtown Houston and the George Bush Monument.

Houston officialdom believe the shows are illegal because the promoters did not ask permission to project the video on public buildings and landmarks. The city, however, did not issue a formal statement on the police response to the event.

From The Guardian today:

While Houston police said the cancellations were due to issues of permits and public safety, some observers have wondered if the content of the song caused the authorities to intervene. As West rages against institutionalized racism in New Slaves, he has some special words for the prison-industrial complex, in which police play an important role. “The DEA teamed up with the CCA,” West raps. “They tryin’ to lock niggas up/ They tryin’ to make new slaves/ See that’s that privately owned prisons/ Get your piece today.”

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