Detroit Says Sorry to Dre
Dr. Dre has agreed to settle two civil rights lawsuits against the cities of Detroit and Auburn Hills, Michigan. He filed the suits after the cities impeded him from airing graphic videos during his Up in Smoke Tour in July, 2000.
Dre received $28,346 and $25,000 from the cities of Auburn Hills and Detroit, respectively, to cover court costs, as well as a formal written apology from both municipalities. As part of the agreement, police officers in Auburn Hills and Detroit have undergone or will undergo instruction in First Amendment compliance. The rapper initially asked for $10 million.
“It was never about money,” says Dre’s lawyer Herschel Fink. “It was a matter of principle, the matter of freedom of expression under the First Amendment. He didn’t care about getting money. I made the suggestion to Dr. Dre’s people that he may want to demonstrate that he didn’t need the money by giving it to the New York police and fire relief funds.” Fink’s suggestion came too late, as the rapper had already written a check for $1 million to a relief fund.
Greg Bowens, press secretary for Detroit Mayor Dennis Archers, disagrees with Fink and Dre’s motivations. “I’m sure that Fink tried to characterize it as some First Amendment fight so he could beat his own chest and get more clients,” he says. “If he was strictly concerned about the First Amendment, he wouldn’t try to stick the people of the city of Detroit for $10 million, or settle for $25,000.”
In a press release, Dre said that he’s pleased with the outcome. “Free speech remains alive in America,” he said. “I look forward to returning to Detroit, so my fans can hear and see the show I originally put together for them.”
Dr. Dre (born Andre Young) filed the lawsuit last year after city officials — including Archer, Bowens and city police officers — threatened mid-show to arrest the rapper and stop the performance if he aired graphic videos at Joe Louis Arena on July 6, 2000. According to Fink, Dre agreed out of fear that a riot would result if the show was stopped. “Mayor Archer, his henchman Greg Bowens and several of the top police command officers came in to stop the show in mid-show and create a riot if they exhibited some videos that were an integral part of the show,” Fink says.
The Up in Smoke Tour — which also included performances by Snoop Dogg, Detroit native Eminem, Ice Cube, Warren G, Xzibit, Kurupt and Nate Dogg — hit the Palace of Auburn Hills, about thirty minutes north of Joe Louis Arena, the following day. “[That] morning, the police came into the Palace and said, ‘We’ve talked to the Detroit police, and were not gonna let you show that shit here either,'” Fink says.
That afternoon, Dre obtained an order prohibiting Auburn Hills from barring the video from U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit. She said that the city could not interfere with the video prior to the concert. After the show, however, Auburn Hills police arrested Dre for criminal obscenity, an ordinance that didn’t exist, according to Fink. The charges were dropped in November 2000.
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Fink aired the controversial videos, which show an armed robbery, partial female nudity and simulated sex acts, during a press conference Wednesday. “You can see Tony Soprano [of The Sopranos] do a lot worse every Sunday night on HBO,” he said. “It was silliness, an over-reaction. The concert played at forty-two different venues. This is the only place where there was a problem with local officers. There was never a disturbance.”
Bowens stands by the city’s move. “Quite honestly, we did what we thought was in the best interest of the children in the city,” he says. “We wanted to avoid explosive violence and sex. There were kids that were going there as young as six years old. There was no pre-warning on the tickets talking about the content of the show. We didn’t have the benefit of being able to rush to court and talk to a judge beforehand. We did what we thought was in the best interest of the children.”