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Monday, May 01, 2006 

Kuncinich confronts TowerCity over Mifunes right to Free Speech

Letter from Congressman Kucinich to Lisa Kreiger, general manager, tower city mall:

Lisa A. Krieger
General Manager
Tower City Center
1100 Terminal Tower
Cleveland, Ohio 44113-2207

Dear Lisa,

I am greatly concerned about actions taken by the management of Tower City Center to censor the band Mifuné and infringe on their First Amendment rights.

It is my understand that during a performance yesterday, Friday, at Tower City Center the management of Tower City Center abruptly halted Mifuné's performance and forced them to suspend their show because of T-shirts some members of the band were wearing.

Rights protected under the First Amendment, including the freedom of speech and expression, are the bedrock of our democracy. I believe actions taken yesterday by mall management violated the band members First Amendment rights and run contrary to our community's long-standing tradition of respecting many different points of views.

I hope you will reconsider your actions, and allow Mifuné to play again at Tower City,

Dennis J. Kucinich
Member of Congress
More info here, original pdf here and original diary "Tower City Mall Security ejects TriC JazzFest Band for Anti-Bush tshirts " here.

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Right on! I've written my letters to Tower City and Forest City Management as well. What is this the 1950's? Cleveland will never move forward with actions like this. Maybe that's what they want?

Hooray for Dennis Kucinich!

If I understand this story, this was a band hired to perform at the mall, or at least, was performing at the mall with the permission of the mall's management. If the managment of the mall doesn't like what the band is doing, the management is within its rights to end the performance. This includes how they are dressed, and whatever political message is on their shirts.

It isn't like these people were standing on Public Square and then were taken away by police for the message on their shirts.

It would appear that Dennis Kucinich doesn't understand the First Amendment. Add that to the list of things he doesn't get.

Just because an institution hires an artist to provide a service does not seem to me to give them carte blanche to control their expressions and appearance.

I know that I for one am not 100% clear on how the 1st Amendment is supposed to work, much less how it practically works in this day and age. But if I had to guess at the spirit or intention behind such a bedrock foundation of American democracy and liberty, it would not be to give those writing paychecks the right to curtail or diminsh the opportunity for paid workers to have and share their opinions, even (especially!) if they differ from the opinions of the boss.

I guess we need to know what kind of contract or rider the group had. If they were simply hired to provide music and were doing so, then the management has the right to not hire them again if they didn't like how the show went.

But stopping their performance because of a dress code violation? Is this high school? Do we really need Tower City to protect the public from anti-Bush t-shirts? Can we really permit them to?

Unless there were some explicit clauses the band signed off on allowing the management of the mall to prohibit certain messages and control their appearance, it seems to me an unreasonable extension of authority. And just the sort of thing Bush and his fans cherish.

Thank you, Mr. Kucinich, for taking an idealistic stance in support of a democratic America courageous enough to bear scrutiny and criticism. We need more politicians with moral values that reference the instruments that are supposed to define America to support their ideals and viewpoints.

"Just because an institution hires an artist to provide a service does not seem to me to give them carte blanche to control their expressions and appearance. "

Carte blanche, no. For instance, Tower City could not make them put pro-Bush shirts on and then make them continue the show. But they could tell them to take off the anti-Bush shirts or else the show is over (or just end the show) -- one of which is apparently what they did.

The odd thing here is that people are all up in arms about the first amendment rights of the "artists" -- what about the rights of those who hired these "artists"? Tower City apparently didn't want to make the political statement these artists were making, so Tower City exercised its right to end the show.

To clarify a couple points, the band Mifune was not employed by Tower City, but by the Tri-C Jazz Fest. Jazz Fest booked the entertainment and the venue.

Secondly, Mifune performs Afro-beat Jazz. This genre was pioneered by the Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti. Fela's music, lyrics, actions and life were political, activist, and anti-authoritarian. The music and message of Mifune is a direct descendent of Fela's music. Tri-C Jazz Fest knew these finer points of the music. It is their job to know music. Mifune's message and dress should not come as a surprise to Tric-C Jazz Fest.

Tric-C Jazz Fest's cowardly backing of Tower City's actions to silence a political-oriented band is unforgivable for an institution that is allegedly furthering artistic expression in the Greater Cleveland area.

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