Michigan Officials Ease Up On Proposed Rap Show Ban

Idea to create security guidelines instead draws praise from American Civil Liberties Union and a local venue.

Easing up on a previous plan to demand an outright ban on all rap concerts in Pontiac,

Mich., following a violent outbreak that shut down a Master P show last month, police

and city officials are now calling for security guidelines to be put in place for such shows.

"It's not banning rap music," Sgt. Conway Thompson said Thursday (Sept. 10) of the

more moderate police proposal expected to be delivered to city officials in the coming

weeks. "We're just going to deal with making sure that the concert producers are

prepared to deal with the necessary security."

Meanwhile, civil-rights advocates and at least one local arena director praised the recent

comments from police and Pontiac Mayor Walter Moore, who opted for the guidelines

over a ban on rap concerts in the area. Discussion of a possible hip-hop embargo arose

in Pontiac following the Master P show on Aug. 29, which ended with audience brawls

and vandalism.

The plan to push forward with the guidelines came as welcome news to Eric Williams,

executive director of the 8,600-seat Silverdome, where the ill-fated Master P concert took

place.

"We're willing to sit down and listen and help work on that process with [police]," Williams

said. "That's something that all of us want to consider, to make sure whatever events we

stage here are safe." After audience brawls marred an opening set by Scarface at the

Silverdome, P's show was cut short when crowd members began throwing chairs and

engaging in fistfights.

Still, not all venue heads are ready to put their stamp of approval on the police proposal

-- even if it focuses on security guidelines rather than on a rap ban.

"We know our venue better than anyone, be it local politicians, local police or the acts

themselves," said Scott Warren, director of booking for Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo,

Mich. "Red-flagging certain shows as to what may be more violent, I don't know if that

works. To have this knee-jerk reaction saying that 'for all shows under this category, we

need to have some sort of security requirement,' I think that's misguided."

Thompson said he did not know when a verbal or written proposal on security guidelines

would be submitted, but said that any recommendation would deal with the police and

outside security staff necessary for rap shows. The public will be invited to comment on

the proposal, he added.

Individual events will necessitate different security, Williams said, adding that a concert

by pop songstress Celine Dion, for instance, would require different provisions than a

show by gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg. "I think it goes from venue to venue and crowd to

crowd," he said.

Although Thompson said last week that he was less concerned with rap concerts

specifically than with any music that encourages or entices violence, he was earlier

quoted by the Detroit News as advocating a ban on hip-hop in particular. "I'm sure

city officials and the Stadium Authority will entertain ideas about not hosting more rap

concerts," he was quoted as saying on the day after the Master P concert.

In the wake of those comments, the mayor issued a statement calling for security

parameters for rap shows.

"Due to our experience with this genre of music, it would be most appropriate for us, as a

city, to establish guidelines in order to better serve the needs of such events," Moore

said. "While it is not our intent to censor any particular type of music, we have a duty to

provide a safe environment for our public."

The local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union vowed to fight any music ban, on

the grounds that it would conflict with the First Amendment right to freedom of

expression. On Thursday, the ACLU praised the notion of security guidelines, while

cautioning that the group had not seen any specific proposal from police.

"It's a far more appropriate response than what they immediately came up with, which

was censorship," said Wendy Wagenheim, legislative affairs director for the ACLU of

Michigan. "Of course, safety and security [are] paramount in any public venue, as well it

should be. But there are ways of ensuring safety and security without censoring."

At least one promoter said the best way to get past any talk of banning concerts is to

stage nonviolent rap events.

"We want to show that young Americans can come together and unify while listening to

hip-hop," said Wilson Ebiye, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Edgewater

Entertainment, which is promoting L.A.'s Hip-Hop Unity Festival with Ice-T, Def Squad,

Busta Rhymes and others later this month.

"We're going to have security, and the LAPD will be there, but we're not expecting any

kind of violence," he said. "It just isn't that kind of event."