GET INVOLVED! Concert for Equality in Omaha, NE.
Downtown Benson in Omaha is a bit vintage, a bit industrial, and a vibrant part of what makes Omaha’s indie scene. With venues like The Waiting Room, it’s easy to get intimate with the local musicians and hear great music without having to fight through the masses. It was here in downtown Benson where Conor Oberst’s Concert for Equality was held July 31, featuring performances by Bright Eyes, Cursive, Desaparecidos, Lullaby for the Working Class, David Dondero, Simon Joyner, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings just to name a few. Oberst and 1% Productions put the concert together to raise money for the ACLU of Nebraska to help fight the immigration reform ordinance that was voted into place in June in Fremont, Nebraska (about 30 miles North-West of Omaha).
The Fremont law is similar to Arizona’s SB1070 bill that passed in April, but with a few key differences: the main one being that Fremont is looking to implement not just employment regulations but housing regulations as well. The law would make it so that any renter in the town would need to gain a renter’s license stating that they are eligible to live in America for them to acquire any property in Fremont. Sitting down with Laurel Marsh, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nebraska, I found that the biggest similarity between Arizona’s immigration law and Fremont’s was the motivating factor as to why the law was voted into place to begin with.
“I think that there is a disconnect at this point in time between, at least the perception of what our [federal] law is and how those laws are implemented, and I think the popular perception leads to a lot of frustration,” Marsh said. This led both Arizona on a state-level and Fremont on a local level to take action into their own hands. It is also for those reasons that all of the new immigration laws being voted into place in Arizona and Fremont, as well as other cities in Pennsylvania and Texas, are currently in court. Marsh explained that these laws are “in conflict with the United States Supremacy Clause. Immigration policy is set by our federal government. It applies to all 50 states, all communities within those 50 states and we are not well served when local states or local communities choose to develop immigration policy that is separate from or different than our national ;and they just don’t have the authority,” and it’s for this reason that the ACLU of Nebraska is appealing the Fremont immigration ordinance.
The next step in the fight against the Fremont law for the ACLU is to have the appeal heard and the verdict eventually ruled in federal court. “This is an outrageous law. It’s an unfair law. It’s an unconstitutional law. I think our ultimate goal is that no one in Fremont will ever be effected by this ordinance,” said Marsh. The goal of those putting on the Concert for Equality last weekend, was to help the ACLU achieve just that goal.
All ticket proceeds from the show went to the ACLU of Nebraska to help fund their fight against Fremont. The concert was a reunion of sorts for some prominent Omaha bands that have been on hiatus, a major player being Desaparecidos, who played for the first time since 2002. With the band’s longstanding political overtones, the timing was just right for them to get back together and play for a cause they could stand behind. Desaparecidos’ guitarist Denver Dalley explained that the band wanted to get involved because their only album, Read Music, Speak Spanish, dealt a lot with questioning the American Dream. “I think we’ve always encouraged people to challenge it or think about it and think ‘is this even for me?’ and I think that’s the important thing with this,” Dalley said. “Obviously, this issue hits close to home and it’s in our backyard, I think it’s also important to stand up for yourself and have a voice and have an opinion and be heard and make an impact.”
One week prior to the Concert for Equality, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band played a benefit concert for the Sound Strike at the Palladium in Hollywood with dozens of others. Conor Oberst is an outspoken supporter of the Sound Strike, which was started by Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine in direct response to the Arizona’s immigration reform law. Arizona’s law is well-known and widely talked about, but Fremont has flown beneath the radar because of its much smaller playing field. It has been refreshing to see such a large involvement in something that isn’t as widely publicized and it came as no surprise to see Oberst spearheading the Concert for Equality and helping to organize such a thought-provoking and controversial event in response to Fremont’s immigration reform.
The performances from all of the bands were phenomenal and the cause they stood behind is one that has become a hot-topic issue in current events, especially with the looming midterm elections happening in November. All bands spoke out before their sets, and between changes, organizers from different non-profits hit the stage to discuss more about getting involved. This is an issue that seems to be glossed over or just not understood for the most part and to see influential musicians like Conor Oberst, Denver Dalley, Tim Kasher, David Rawlings, and Gillian Welch get involved and speak up helps get others involved as well.
*By Karen, who has already signed the Sound Strike petition and has been a card-carrying member of the ACLU since high school. She hopes everyone is inspired to get involved.