Lost in Talib Kweli’s combative CNN interview with Don Lemon in August was his account of the hostile treatment by police that he and his fellow activists encountered at the protests over Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo. Billboard talked to the hip-hop artist about his experiences on the front lines and how close he says he came to being arrested. Here is Kweli’s account in his own words (and for more from Kweli, read the musician’s essay on the civil rights movement and how it relates to Ferguson):
Was my life threatened in Ferguson? Oh, yeah. I had a cop telling me he was going to blow “my f—ing head off.” I was with poet Jessica Care Moore and activist professor Rosa Clemente. We got chased, and people next to me got tackled. The cops were tackling people like lions tackle gazelles. I didn’t get tackled, but I got stopped. They pointed guns at my group and they made us lay on the ground while they secured the area. And there was a black cop who got upset at the way the police were treating us. He said, “These people didn’t do anything. You have to let them go.” If he didn’t step up, I would have been arrested.
—As told to Frank DiGiacomo
A version of this story orginally appeared in the Sept. 13 issue of Billboard.