The American Civil
Liberties Union of Rhode Island condemned the Warwick Board of Public Safety yesterday
(Dec. 18) for banning Hip-Hop and rap music events at a local nightclub in the
wake of a shooting incident at the club earlier this month.
The Board enforced
its prohibition of Hip-Hop and rap music at Barry’s Nightclub on Tuesday (Dec.
14) after a man was shot during an altercation outside the venue.
seems to draw a very violent crowd. We’re just not going to put up with it,"
said Michael F. Ryan, chairman of the Warwick Board of Public Safety.
of Public Safety has embarked down a slippery slope in dictating to club owners
what type of music they can host or perform," Steven Brown, Executive Director
of the ACLU of Rhode Island said in a statement. "When the board goes so
far as to ban certain types of music at an establishment, extremely serious
First Amendment issues are implicated."
Brown further stated
in a letter to the Board that the city has various resources available, such
as liquor restrictions and improved security, to prevent future misconduct at
Shortly after the
shooting Barry Blier, owner of Barry’s Nightclub, announced that he was
voluntarily canceling Hip-Hop themed nights, but the Warwick Board of Public
Safety amended his license to ban Hip-Hop and now forces the club to close an
hour before competing bars in the area.
Even the local
chief of police supported the ban. According to Col. Stephen McCartney, officers
had to frequently respond to “near riot-like conditions, some of which
required so many officers, the rest of the city is left without police protection.
The ACLU emphasized
that previous Hip-Hop and rap concerts have gone down without violent breakouts.
The ACLU used the
recent shooting incident that occurred at an Ohio nightclub while a heavy metal
band was performing to indicate the Board’s irrationality in identifying Hip-Hop and rap music as susceptible to violence.
and rap music at Barry’s Nightclub because of disruptive incidents is no more
appropriate than banning "The Star Spangled Banner’ at sporting events
where spectator melees have occurred," Brown said.
since Hip-Hop and rap music often have a decided anti-establishment edge to
them, a decision singling out these forms of musical performance for a ban has
a content-based component that is especially troubling in a free speech context."