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Army Questions Spearhead Mom

Band’s protest ways draws military inquiries

Performing at protest rallies is nothing new for the politically
minded hip-hop/soul band Spearhead. What made their March 15th
anti-war concert in San Francisco different is that bombs started
falling on Baghdad a few days later.

But first, on March 16th, across the country in Boston, the
mother of the group’s human beatbox Radioactive received a visit
from two plainclothes Army officers.

“She’d spoken in an interview about her daughter who has been
deployed in the Gulf, and her son who is in this band Spearhead,”
says Spearhead frontman Michael Franti. “They showed her a picture
of her son wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Unfuck the world’ on the
front, and ‘Dethrone the Bushes’ on the back. They told her that
was an un-American statement. She said, ‘That’s free speech,’ and
they said, ‘Well, things are changing these days.'”

The men who visited the frightened woman told her that her
daughter’s CDs had been confiscated, and that her son had recently
taken two flights to Japan. “Why would he do that?” they asked her,
according to Franti.

The men then showed her a list of names of people who worked in
Franti’s management office in San Francisco and a photograph of her
son performing with Spearhead at the peace rally one day prior. “It
kind of put a scare into all of us,” says Franti. “The fact that
people would be paying this close attention to what we’re doing as
musicians is a bit freaky. We’re human rights workers — we don’t
believe that people should be killed. We’re not about wanting to
overthrow the government, but we want to speak out. It’s made us
deepen our belief in what we do and work that much harder.”

Spearhead recently debuted a Sly and Robbie dancehall remix
version of their song “Bomb the World” on the Internet. The song,
from their upcoming album Everyone Deserves Music, was
written in the aftermath of September 11th and features the chorus:
“You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into
peace.”

“Look at the way all of these different songs have been put out
in opposition to the war: the Beasties, Lenny Kravitz, Zack de la
Rocha, R.E.M.,” Franti says. “Labels are afraid to put those out as
singles and bring them to the radio stations out of fear for what
happened to the Dixie Chicks. Now it’s coming to the Internet,
which is great. But it’s unfortunate that we live in a time and in
a country where radio is so centralized and under the control of so
few voices. Our musical heroes all spoke to the times, but this
time around we’re not able. Not in the same way.”

Franti, a longtime activist but no conspiracy theorist, is not
fearful of big brother Bush putting his hand down on the artist’s
shoulder. Not directly, at least. “I don’t think Spearhead is under
an investigation, or any other artist is,” Franti says,
acknowledging the fear that the visit by the two officers had on
Radioactive’s mother. “But people who are doing human rights work
are creating little blips on the radar. And they’re now
investigating everyone whose views are contrary to the policies of
the Bush administration. Hopefully it doesn’t amount to anything
more than that . . . Hopefully.”

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