Punk Rock Rebels, Repressive Regimes Fight Back

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the Elk’s Lodge riot in downtown Los Angeles where the LAPD cracked the skulls of punk rockers at a multiband show near MacArthur Park. Officers in riot gear stormed the historic Elks Lodge where local bands X, the GoGos, the Plugz, the Alley Cats and the Zeros were headlining, swinging batons, terrorizing and arresting young citizens for being different.

Rock and roll has been the music of rebellion and social change since the 1950s, and each successive wave of youths have discovered its power (chords) and embraced its do-it-yourself aesthetic. Punk rock and technology, from cassette tapes to MP3 and file sharing have made music the most easily understood and easy to identify mode of rebellious self-expression. The music, lyrics, and yes, fashion have been and are still threatening to the powers that be: Los Angeles Police chief Daryl Gates viewed punk rock, especially the band Black Flag, as a major threat, regularly sending in riot cops for their shows and says Black Flag drummer Greg Cameron:

Gates would get Black Flag tour dates and phone ahead to the local law enforcement agencies in those towns to “warn” them that Flag was coming.

Today punk rocks continue expressing dissatisfaction and challenging authority; and while punk may be almost 40, its revolutionary, self-empowering spirit has spread throughout the world to some of the most oppressive regimes, where musicians and fans are being imprisoned, “re-educated,” and murdered for daring to think and act differently.

In the past month in Iraq, per Reuters, 14 youths were stoned to death in Baghdad

in what appears to be a campaign by Shi’ite militants against youths wearing Western-style “emo” clothes and haircuts, security and hospital sources say.

Emo is modern style of punk music and dress that evolved in the late 1980s and is still popular with youth around the world. The Iraqi government has denied emo was the reason for the youths’ brutal death, but over the past weekend:

Militants in Shi’ite neighborhoods where the stonings have taken place circulated lists … naming more youths targeted to be killed if they do not change the way they dress.

The Guardian UK reports that in December 2011, where Indonesian youth which has been expressing itself through punk rock for two decades:

[A] punk gig took place in Aceh, Indonesia, the “special province” of the country that has its own police force pledged to maintain sharia law. Supposedly because the event’s organisers had forged official documents to gain the requisite permit, 64 of its attendees – who had travelled from all over the country – were arrested, and taken to a nearby detention centre, before being transported to a “remedial school” 37 miles away. There, their mohican hairstyles were forcibly removed because they were deemed “insulting to Islamic traditions”. According to a police spokesman, the group was held there to “undergo a re-education, so their morals will match those of other Acehnese people”. Demonstrations followed not just in Indonesia, but in London and San Francisco.

The recent Russian election brought punk rock to the forefront in the former Soviet Union when members of the feminist guerrilla punk collective (punk rock was the first genre where women/girls played all their instruments themselves) Pussy Riot were charged with hate crimes and violating a public order the day before the election, which kept Vladamir Putin in office as expected. Two members are still jailed and on a hunger strike.

Meanwhile last night at the über-hip SXSW in Austin, Tom Morello played a live concert for Occupy SXSW (Occupy Austin) attended by lots of folks who weren’t credentialed for the laminate-only festival/industry schmoozefest which was shut down by the police. Today, to celebrate the six months anniversary of the Occupy movement, there’s a Million Musician March for Peace taking place right now through the streets of Austin. Let’s see how the cops behave.


Art: Raymond Pettibone for Target Video, private collection

HT: We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk, by Brendan Mullen and Mark Spitz

27 Responses to "Punk Rock Rebels, Repressive Regimes Fight Back"
DrDick | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:08 pm 1


This is the intro music for my Anthropology of Gender class on Tuesday. We are talking about gender, power, and politics and one of the themes I discuss is the rising importance of women in a variety of political movements promoting democracy, workers’ rights, and human rights.

Lisa Derrick | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:16 pm 2

Awsome! Pussy Riot! And let’s not forget the GoGos! I hope you are covering the GoGos! Also the Slits, the Bags, the riot grrl movement.

I am reading an amazing book right now, “Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic” by Vere Chappell and Mary K. Greer about Ida Craddock, and American sexual/spiritual pioneer, who made her first mark on society by delivering a series of talks after the Chicago World Fair about the spiritual themes in Danse de Ventre”–the belly dancing that caused such furor. Greer also wrote “Women of the Golden Dawn” which explored the lives of Irish acress Florence Farr, revolutionary Maude Gonne, mystic Moina Mathers, and patron of the arts Annie Horniman. The four women and mystical practices affected the culture and politics of their time.

DrDick | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:21 pm 3
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 2

I do not really focus too much on music or art in the class itself, but I do a musical intro to all my classes. I have played Patti Smith and PJ Harvey for them so far. Also Rev. Horton Heat’s “Cowboy Love” for the lecture on sexuality.

eCAHNomics | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:34 pm 4

Elks Lodge?

DrDick | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:38 pm 5
In response to eCAHNomics @ 4

The local Elk’s Lodge is actually a major venue for punk and hip-hop acts here in Missoula. They have a large bar area to rent out and need the revenues (especially since membership has been dropping for decades). They really are not too particular about who they rent it out to and they are pretty affordable for promoters.

eCAHNomics | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:44 pm 6
In response to DrDick @ 5

Gosh, and I thought I was being adventurous in going to the Elks for Lent Friday fish fry last night.

Margaret | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:45 pm 7
In response to DrDick @ 5

I guess not all conservatives are incapable of adapting to a situation.

EvilDrPuma | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:47 pm 8
In response to Margaret @ 7

They’ll adapt real damn quick when there’s a chance to make a few bucks.

demi | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:49 pm 9
In response to Margaret @ 7

It’s amazing what people will do for money.

demi | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:50 pm 10

I guess I owe Dr. Evil a beverage.
I’ve got hot lemon tea with a coupla dollops of chardonay that I’ll share.

JaneaneTheAcerbicGoblin | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:55 pm 11

I used to hate punk, but I find myself rethinking that position. Just bought Fear’s The Record, one of the seminal punk bands from LA.

Still can’t get into X or Black Flag though (due to Exene’s and Rollins’s voices, which I dislike). .

DrDick | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:55 pm 12
In response to eCAHNomics @ 6

We actually had a murder outside the Elks this past fall after a hip-hop show (gang related, but not local). That is a pretty rare occurrence here as we seldom have more than one a year.

EvilDrPuma | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:56 pm 13
In response to demi @ 10

Sounds delightful. I’ll take one.

DrDick | Saturday March 17, 2012 08:57 pm 14

I am not a huge fan of a lot of it, but there is some I like. I have played a couple of songs by Black 47 for my race and ethnicity class.

JaneaneTheAcerbicGoblin | Saturday March 17, 2012 09:00 pm 15
In response to DrDick @ 14

Fear are pretty good, early Clash, early Sex Pistols, Ramones (who I’m also getting into a lot).

Black 47 are good, too, and Irish (which is always a plus).

eCAHNomics | Saturday March 17, 2012 09:02 pm 16
In response to DrDick @ 12

I don’t read the local news bc it is mostly about development and I get agita enough from seeing it without reading about it in advance.

From what I do know, murders are rare, and when they do occur, mostly about domestic violence. Then usually murder/suicide.

Bars are open about an hour later in this town than in other nearby towns (why would I know the details, but something like 3a instead of 2a), so that attracts its share of stupid drunkenness. All I’ve heard about that is trash on the sidewalk that Main St. store owners complain bitterly about having to clean up in the morning and the occasional broken window.

There are a significant number of prisons nearby Wallkill ranges from min to max security and is only 7-1/2 miles away. In my 31 years, granted mostly as a weekender, there was only one prison break that I know about.

demi | Saturday March 17, 2012 09:05 pm 17
In response to EvilDrPuma @ 13

It’s nice and relaxing. Light.

DrDick | Saturday March 17, 2012 09:16 pm 18

Time for me to toddle off. Take care all.

Lisa Derrick | Saturday March 17, 2012 09:17 pm 19

I like punk a lot. The Clash, Bad Religion, X, Gogos, Sex Pistols, Ramones, and a lot of the newer stuff too like Green Day and Pennywise. The book I cited, We Got the Neutron Bomb, is a great oral history of LA punk.

Lisa Derrick | Saturday March 17, 2012 09:18 pm 20
In response to DrDick @ 18

Night, Dr D!

demi | Saturday March 17, 2012 09:18 pm 21
In response to DrDick @ 18

Good night, DrDick, and peaceful slumber.

CTuttle | Saturday March 17, 2012 09:24 pm 22
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 19

Still my fave… The Guns of Brixton…!

wynota skunk | Sunday March 18, 2012 05:29 am 23

At almost 60 I still love the LA punk scene. John Doe and the members of X were still touring until Xecene became ill several years ago. The Knitters,with Dave Alvin sitting in on guitar are great, too. Since the early 80′s there has been a counter current of alt, roots, cow punk, folk and blues co-habitating in a too small, broken down bed with squeaky springs in a warehouse near you. If you happen to live in a West Coast city, that is. It’s great to see the offspring of this first real American mash up come out for some sun and fresh air. Punks of all ages, even punkanovellos, who I take to these shows, eventually connect the dots and have a good time in the raw.

bassness | Sunday March 18, 2012 07:15 am 24

Greg Cameron never played drums with Black Flag. He did play with SWA and the October Faction.

darms | Sunday March 18, 2012 08:23 am 26

blargo | Tuesday March 20, 2012 08:06 am 27

Please stop writing ill-researched, false articles about subjects you know little about. Cameron had nothing to do with Black Flag. This is just like your SST Records/DMCA article on the Huffington Post, full of inaccuracies.

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