On Wednesday, March 19, as the United States readied Tomahawk missiles in the direction of Baghdad, audience members gathered in the lobby of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, New Jersey for the latest Ani performance. The venue management forbade the peace organization Not In Our Name (NION) www.notinourname.net to set up an information table there-the first time in Ani’s 12-year touring career that tabling was not allowed. The venue also refused to allow NION’s literature and posters to be available at the Righteous Babe merchandising table. “Rather than argue,” said Scot Fisher, Ani’s manager, “we offered Miles Solay, the representative from NION, the opportunity to address the audience from the stage.”
However, the administrators of NJPAC threatened to pull the plug on the concert if anyone other than Ani spoke “advocating their cause.” Fisher discussed the situation with Ani and subsequently told the promoter, “If the venue stops the speakers from addressing the audience, Ani will not perform.”
NJPAC administration backed down, and the show went on as scheduled. Solay, who was joined by Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! www.democracynow.org program, and Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who had just returned for Baghdad, took the stage and voiced their resistance to the impending war. Along with a call for action, the speakers also expressed outrage at the repression of free speech engaged in by the venue. In defiance, Scahill tossed handfuls of informational leaflets into the cheering crowd. DiFranco then performed her solo concert without interruption. Throughout the rest of the evening, repeated references to the incident were met with waves of loud approval from the audience.
Ani summed up the confrontation score with these words: “In this time of war, when all major media sources are co-opted and controlled by the military-corporate monolith, it is especially important that we disobey any attempts to silence us. They tried to shut us down tonight, but once again we have proven that there is power in numbers. So it’s People - 1, Random Knuckleheads - 0 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.”