Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha is stepping up his campaign to compel the state of Arizona to repeal its controversial immigration law. In addition to adding Ry Cooder, Nine Inch Nails, and comedian Chris Rock to the growing list of artists who are refusing to perform there as part of The Sound Strike boycott effort, de la Rocha tells Billboard.biz that plans are in the works for a series of protest concerts in July.
"In the coming weeks we are going to be organizing a series of concerts that are respectful of the nature of the boycott in its attempts to isolate the Arizona government but not isolate the people, and especially the organizations that are fighting this on the ground," de la Rocha said in a telephone interview on Monday. "Many of us have begun to plan concerts that include bands that have signed on the Sound Strike, and make tickets available so that people within Arizona can come and see these concerts as they roll out. These are things that are being set into motion right now - a series of concerts or maybe even one giant concert in late July."
De la Rocha says that "there's a strong chance" Rage Against the Machine will play one or more of the concerts.
The law passed by the Arizona state legislature, SB1070, requires local authorities to determine a person's immigration status if he or she is suspected of being undocumented. The law is set to be enacted on July 29.
Maroon 5, Gogol Bordello, My Morning Jacket, Ben Harper and Pitbull are among the dozens of artists who today (June 28) announced their support for the Sound Strike effort and have pledged to boycott Arizona, refusing to perform in the state until the law is repealed. Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Anti-Flag, Throwing Muses, State Radio, Aztlan Underground and DJ Spooky also announced support for the effort in a posting on thesoundstrike.net  today.
In addition to the dozens of artists announced today, the first in a series of video PSAs were released, featuring de la Rocha, Conor Oberst and Ozomatli. Additional PSAs will be posted to the site every Monday in the weeks leading up to the law's scheduled enactment.
The Sound Strike was launched in late May by de la Rocha to mobilize fellow musicians to participate in the boycott effort, to educate the musicians' fans about the law, and to gather signatures on a petition calling for its repeal. Cypress Hill, Juanes, Conor Oberst, Los Tigres del Norte, Rage Against the Machine, Cafe Tacvba, Kanye West, Calle 13 as well as Oscar winning filmmaker and activist Michael Moore were among the artists who signed on to the campaign at its launch.
"Its been a collaborative effort that started with a letter I sent out, which was passed on to all the guys in Rage Against the Machine, and to various friends I've made while playing in Mexico," de la Rocha said. It spread organically that way. And I've definitely been pooling through everyone I know to continue to push before this law is enacted in just over a month. We're still getting letter in and we have a lot more artists joining on that we'll be announcing in the next few weeks."
While many artists and musicians are supporting the boycott, some in the Arizona music community have questioned the approach, insisting that fans and promoters alike are being unjustly punished. In an open letter to the participating artists, Arizona-based concert promoter Charlie Levy of Stateside Presents urged them to reconsider. "By not performing in Arizona, artists are harming the very people and places that foster free speech and the open exchange of ideas that serve to counter the closed-mindedness recently displayed by the new law," he wrote. "The people who will feel the negative effects of the boycott the deepest are local concert venues, including non-profit art house theatres, independent promoters, motivated fans, and the hundreds of people employed in the local music business. If the boycott continues, it is all but guaranteed that some of these venues will be forced to close their doors."
But de la Rocha disagrees, and promises musicians will return to Arizona in force if their effort is successful.
"Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona legislature have created an environment in Arizona where performing is no longer a neutral act," he said. "They have created an environment where they can convert the normal commercial interaction between artists and their fans into the means to apply this racist law. The relationship between musicians and artists and fans can best be served by standing for human rights and when we prevent this law from coming into action and continue to fight it even if it is enacted, when its removed from the books we're going to have an unbelievable concert - it will be the celebration to end all celebrations."