Rhode Island Officials Ban Hip-Hop At Club, ACLU Reacts

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.

“Hip-Hop

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.

"The Board

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

clubs.

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.

"Banning Hip-Hop

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.

"Further,

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."

Related Stories