Tom Morello on National Nurses United Rally: 'They Couldn't Shut Us Down'

The guitarist talks about performing at Friday's protest

tom morello
Tom Morello perfoms at the 'This Land Is Your Land' - Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration Concert in Los Angeles.
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When Tom Morello performs at Chicago's Daley Plaza on Friday as part of the National Nurses United (NNU) rally, it will cap off a week that has demonstrated the power of the people. After the Rage Against the Machine guitarist – who will play under the guise of his do-gooder alter ego, the Nightwatchman – decided to participate in the event, his native city threatened to move the rally to a less visible location. However, as Morello tells Rolling Stone, the power of his, the nurses' and the public's outcry was too powerful to deny, and the rally has been allowed to continue as originally planned at Daley Plaza during the NATO summit.

"They couldn't shut us down because we stood up," Morello says. "It was a few politicians, their skeevy lawyers and some trembling NATO generals who caved in."

Morello first became involved with the National Nurses United through his friendship with group member Donna Smith, who was featured in Michael Moore's 2007 documentary Sicko. He previously played in support of the group in Boston in 2008. "My support for the working class is well documented but, in particular, the grotesque economic inequality that plagues our country and our planet needs to be addressed head-on," he says. "The Nurses Union are the one of the louder voices doing it."

 The guitarist admits that he was taken aback by Chicago and NATO's resistance to his performance at the rally. "If NATO, the defender of the free world, is afraid of a musician with an acoustic guitar and some nurses, we're in a lot of trouble," he says. "We present no threat to the city of Chicago. The only people that have anything to fear are the moneyed interests who have been trying to shut us up."

Specifically, Morello and NNU are rallying in support of a small tax on Wall Street's financial transactions – commonly referred to as a "Robin Hood tax" – which would provide money to aid in the suffering of average families. Says RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, "We're building this movement as the first real breakthrough in terms of building a broad-based movement around a financial transaction tax." She believes that Morello's support and participation in Friday's rally has been instrumental in spreading her group's message, for which numerous Occupy movement members will be bussed in cross-country to hear. "Music is power. Alternative voices, especially in music, can move people in a way at a pretty fundamental level," she explains. "The overreaction to Tom Morello has been a blessing in disguise."

Adds Morello, "The malfeasance of Wall Street has torpedoed the global economy and caused distress for countless millions of families – while at the same time, these executives are giving themselves millions of dollars in bonuses. It's absolutely wrong."

Morello says he has been allotted a 30-minute slot to perform on Friday, which should be more than enough time to get his message across. "They've given me a half hour to rouse the crowd," he says excitedly. "We're going there to have our voices heard!"

Morello will appear on Moyers & Company this week to talk more about Friday's rally. Watch a preview of the interview below: