Across the country and especially in political and media hotbeds Washington, D.C. and New York City, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has become a rallying cry amongst frustrated Americans who are galvanizing in an effort to combat social and economic inequality. Activists and entertainers alike have been marching and standing in solidarity with the movement, with many arrests being made as protestors gather peacefully in public areas.
This past Sunday (October 16) in the Nation’s Capital, professor and political activist Dr. Cornel West and R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn along with 17 others were arrested and held overnight by police officials during the occupancy protests on the steps of the Supreme Court Building, not far from where the dedication ceremony for Dr. Martin Luther King’s memorial was taking place just southwest of the National Mall.
President Obama, a target of Dr. West's recent criticisms, delivered a speech to the throng of people in attendance of the historic event honoring one of the Civil Rights movement's greatest champions. In an almost fitting turn of events, Dr. West and DeVaughn's arrests happening during such a landmark event in honor of a vocal and globally beloved social activist could perhaps be seen as more than just mere coincidence.
Monday evening (October 17), MTV had the pleasure of speaking first with Raheem DeVaughn upon his release and showed an amazing amount of humility while pledging his time and art in support of the movement – with the inconvenience of being held overnight overshadowed by the bond the soul singer forged with other supporters of the "Occupy" movement.
“I actually hopped on the plane from Chicago; I actually missed the MLK [dedication ceremony] event. Dr. West reached out to me to go meet up with them,” said a traveling Raheem DeVaughn. “Dr. West had been invited to speak down at Freedom Plaza, where they’re occupying the land for their cause. So after the speech, we proceeded to march and peacefully protest. We went down to the [Supreme Court] building and did what we had to do.”
After assessing that there was roughly 100 occupiers walking alongside them, Dr. West and Raheem DeVaughn discovered that stepping foot on the Supreme Court steps is a legal violation. “Once you step foot on the Supreme Court steps, you lose your first amendment rights. I don’t see how as an American citizen you can’t go to the Supreme Court steps and speak your mind or speak your piece peacefully. We were given some warnings, three to be exact, then they proceeded to take us off to jail.”
DeVaughn shared that while the incident could be perceived as harrowing, the police officers treated Dr. West, himself and the other held individuals with respect – and even managed to bond with some folks while awaiting release although the singer was critical of the jail conditions. “Everybody just embraced us and showed us a lot of love and applauded us for our efforts,” said DeVaughn of his fellow prison mates. "The place is so old. I learned so much about how the prison system works and it pretty much modern day slavery."
The artist also known as “Radio Raheem” said he was inspired by the events and offered to lend his artistry to help bolster their effort. DeVaughn is no stranger to the realm of socially conscious music as his early career was solidly built on that concept.
“I’ve been creating a soundtrack for a movement and I plan to get down to Freedom Plaza and hit up Wall Street when I’m in New York. I want get out there and touch the people. This is what I talk about in my music,” said a passionate DeVaughn.
In New York and abroad, the "Occupy Wall Street" demostrations have been well attended by high profile names, with Russell Simmons, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and Talib Kweli showing up in Manhattan's Zucotti Park in support. Hollywood stars have also shown their support as well, with actress Susan Sarandon addressing the crowd and educating herself on the issues. There have been record amounts of arrests made in all the cities from Denver to Phoenix, including a staggering 400 reported arrested on October 1 in New York.
Raheem DeVaughn, who still enjoys a loyal fan base, has since started his own radio talk show where he and his co-hosts tackle a bevy of topics. The singer is also working alongside longtime producer Kenny Dope on a new project, although the title and release date of the album is still a work in progress.
What are your thoughts on Raheem DeVaugh and Dr. Cornel West's arrests during the "Occupy DC" protests? Tweet to us at @MTVRapFix or leave us a comment below.