Incensed by Greenwood Village City Council's new resolution protecting police officers from personal liability in civil lawsuits, Nathaniel Rateliff and the members of his band, the Night Sweats, along with the musicians in The Lumineers, Flobots and Spirit of Grace, are launching a boycott against the city and Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, a massive venue located in Greenwood Village and owned by the Museum of Outdoor Arts, an Englewood-based nonprofit.
In a letter to Greenwood Village City Council, the musicians called for an immediate repeal of the resolution and called on their fellow artists to refuse to play Fiddler's Green until the measure has been repealed.
The resolution was a response to SB-217, a statewide police reform bill that lawmakers passed in the wake of protests against the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Among other things, the new Colorado law made individual officers liable for up to $25,000 if they were sued and their employers determined that they broke the law or acted in bad faith.
The Greenwood Village resolution stated the city would always pay if officers were sued.
In a July 9 statement, Greenwood Village justified the resolution with this: "We will not judge the efforts of other cities to do what they believe best for their citizens, but based on our workforce, our training and our culture, we do not believe that the potential financial penalties of our police officers in Greenwood Village will make any measurable difference in whether they will act in a professional or criminal way. However, the principle behind such penalties can destroy the will of our officers to serve the people that they have sworn to protect. We have sworn to protect our citizens from harm from those who would do them ill. It would not be in the public interest to create a system that contributes to the loss of good officers or diminish the ability to attract the best candidates to do a very necessary and dangerous job."
The musicians argue that by refusing to abide by the statewide law, Greenwood Village is enabling criminal conduct by officers, making fans, musicians and music-industry workers — particularly people of color — unsafe in the city.
Here's the full petition:
Dear Greenwood Village City Council,
We, music fans and artists, stand in solidarity with the Black community against police brutality and call for the immediate repeal of Greenwood Village’s Resolution 40-20, and stand with artists who will not play Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre until they do.
Live performances at Fiddler’s Green are a major source of revenue for the city of Greenwood Village. Because the city council does not understand why it is imperative — from a civil rights and safety perspective — to abide by our statewide laws, we hope that they understand why it is also an economic imperative that we as artists and fans will now refuse to spend our money in Greenwood Village.
With the exception of Greenwood Village, Colorado has made us proud. By passing Senate Bill 20-217 last month, our state leads the nation in its legislative response to George Floyd’s murder. The bill received STRONG BIPARTISAN SUPPORT and now serves as a national model in police reform. It bans certain choke holds, requires body cameras, and allows for police officers to be held civilly liable when their actions are deemed unjustified.
Last week, however, the Greenwood Village City Council passed a resolution that deliberately counters this hard-won progress. Resolution 40-20 says the city will pay all legal costs for police officers who are either accused or found guilty of the same egregious behaviors outlined in SB 20-217 — even when the officer acts in bad faith. This sort of reactionary, ahistorical legislation flies in the face of everything Colorado and the Black Lives Matter movement has achieved. More to the point, the actions of Greenwood Village City Council directly endangers the lives of its Brown and Black community members.
We, music fans and artists, strive for representation and inclusivity. This law puts Black and Brown Coloradoans, and all of us, at risk, and we will not stand for this injustice.
It is unconscionable that anyone — particularly Black artists and fans — should be forced to financially support a city government that has doubled down on racist policies, when performing in Colorado or attending a musician’s performance.This is why we are calling on all Colorado music fans and musicians to protest this egregious, backward, and wholly unjustified rebuke of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Unless Greenwood Village repeals Resolution 40-20, no one can be confident that the city is safe for all fans and performers. This is unacceptable, and we will protest until the safety and enjoyment of all performers and fans can be assured.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
Nathaniel Rateliff, Joseph Pope III, Mark Shusterman, Pat Meese, Luke Mossman, Andreas Wild, Jeff Dazey, Daniel Hardaway
Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers
Spirit of Grace
The bands signing the letter are some of Colorado's biggest acts, with long records of political involvement. Members of Flobots, one of the biggest hip-hop acts to come out of Denver in the past two decades, are longtime community activists.
The Lumineers made Fiddler's Green history when the act sold out three consecutive nights at the 18,000-seat venue in 2017. The band, which performs regularly stadium concerts, was scheduled to play Coors Field later this summer. It posted this on the Lumineers social media page: "We stand in solidarity with the Black community, and with artists who will not play @FiddlersGreenAmphitheatre until @greenwoodgov’s Resolution 40-20 is repealed."
Singer-songwriter Rateliff, a funder of progressive causes through his foundation the Marigold Project, was scheduled for two nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre this summer.
In a letter to fans, Rateliff explained why he's behind this cause: "It is unconscionable to me that anyone — particularly Black artists and fans — should have to support a city government that has doubled down on racist police policies, just to perform in Colorado or attend a musician’s performance. All Colorado music fans and musicians must reject this egregious, backward, and wholly unjustified attack on the Black Lives Matter movement."
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