Q Magazine

Guest column - Occupying London & Wall Street with Tom Morello

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Rage Against the Machine‘s guitarist and The Nightwatchmen leader, Tom Morello was in London this week (9 November) to show his continued support for the Occupy movement by joining the likes of Billy Bragg and playing for the protestors who are currently camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral, following a similar appearence he made at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York last month. Here he explains why is backing the Occupy… movement.

In 1300 cities and towns and hamlets across the globe people are occupying areas, and to just lend my hand as a musician – to help steel the back bone of people who are standing up for what’s right and to put a little wind in the sails of the struggle – that’s a good day’s work.

Playing Occupy… in London was fantastic. We used a mic from the crowd, went on the steps of St. Paul’s and gathered a crowd around in the dark, performed without a PA – that’s just how I like it! There were about 300 people there and Peggy Seeger, Chumbawamba and Billy Bragg played before me. The crowd was wound-up. But I’d come to serenade them with songs of retribution and revolution, so why wouldn’t they be wound up?

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There are a lot of similarities with the different places I’ve played, but the most striking one is that a lot of the people who are protesting and demonstrating are doing it for the first time and I think that’s something unique about it. It’s like they’ve all identified the villain! The corporate malfeasance that has torpedoed the global economy and caused so much economic misery for humans and environmental misery for the planet.

It’s encouraging and inspiring that communities around the globe are standing up for their rights in this way. It’s unprecedented in my lifetime that there’s this global movement. The lesson we all learned from the Arab Spring was a very simple one: You can change the world by just walking out of your front door. You don’t have to wait for presidents, premieres, kings or courts to do it for you. In fact, the best plackard I’ve seen to date is The Beginning Is Near.

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There’s been cultural differences between each protest I’ve played – Occupy San Francisco is a lot different to Occupy LA for example. In Oakland a kid got his head smashed in by heavy-handed cops, and there was violence in Westwood, California, but it’s to be expected and you can’t whine about it. The state is not going to allow you to set up tents and overthrow capitalism next week. You just have to come back harder and come back smarter each time.

During the first two weeks of Occupy Wall Streetthe story was that the story wasn’t being reported. Then some women were maced by the New York City Police and all of New York City found out about it. A week later 700 people from Occupy Wall Street were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, and country found out about it. Three weeks after that there were over a thousand occupied cities around the world, so it’s like a process. If the empire strikes back, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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In fact one of the things I appreciate about the Occupy… movement is that it’s not a top-down movement. They’re not waiting for me to give them advice. Two months in and we’re already in around 1300 cities around the world and it’s growing every day. They don’t need me, they’re fine on their own, but every successful progressive struggle requires a great soundtrack though, so I’m gonna just keep writing songs.

Tom Morello was talking to Joe Bishop

Head to Nightwatchmanmusic.com or Occupylondon.org.uk for more information.


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