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RNC Protesters Rush to Defend Johnny Cash Legacy

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The Tennessee delegation to the Republican National Convention sparked protests by hosting an exclusive “celebration” of Johnny Cash at the auction house Sotheby’s. We hear a report from the streets. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Finally, we turn to a story about the legendary singer Johnny Cash. Cash was one of the nation’s most successful country singers for the last half century. He died last September at the age of 71. Yesterday, the Tennessee delegation to the Republican National Convention sparked yet another protest by hosting an exclusive celebration of Johnny Cash at the Sotheby’s auction house. Democracy Now! producer John Hamilton filed this report.

KAREN ROSE: My name is Karen Rose. I am a New Yorker. I’m standing here on 71st and York Avenue in front of Sotheby’s, who usually sell antique lamps and Ming vases. Today they are hosting the republicans at an exhibit of Johnny Cash memorabilia and trying to link the two of them together. We are here because they are trying to do that and they are trying to take our city and our park and everything else away from us and making us ask permission to cross the street and we aren’t standing for it any more.

JELLO BIAFRA: This is Jello Biafra reporting from outside the infamous auction house, Sotheby’s, where the Man in Black Bloc has converged upon the Tennessee republican delegation who has gone for a private viewing of items from the Estate of the late Johnny Cash. As Steve Earle would put it, “Johnny would be rolling in his grave.”

KEVIN CLOTMAN: Hello my name is Kevin Clotman, and I am here at Sotheby’s. Johnny Cash doesn’t really belong to any one group or any one person. He belongs to everyone. I would say especially not the republicans because he is a man for the working people, he was a labor man, sang some mining songs, sang some blues songs and he wore black in solidarity for the poor and the oppressed. So we’d just like to let the RNC delegates know that we’re out here and that’s what he stands for and that’s what we believe he stands for.

JELLO BIAFRA: What would Johnny Cash think of Bush’s illegal war in Iraq, let alone what he does to people of lesser means in the South and the rest of the United States? What would Johnny Cash think of mountaintop removal, for example, where the coal companies blow the whole top off of mountains in Appalachia, and if all the debris lands in the valley and buries people’s homes and buries streams? They don’t care. Why do they do it? Because they can. So people are here to take back the spirit of Johnny Cash, or at least subject these republican fat cat scam artists to a little bit of the old spirit that goes back through Johnny Cash or as one of my friends in the Melvins put it, when Johnny Cash died he looked off wistfully and said he was our Abe Lincoln in a way. And so the people inside and the people at Sotheby’s, they are going to sell Johnny’s effects to rich people who want to buy a piece of Johnny Cash. And I guess the message from the protesters here is you cannot buy a piece of everybody, let alone have everybody lie down while you wreck the country with the PATRIOT Act and go off to illegal blood baths in the Middle East which accomplish nothing except creating more terrorists.

PROTESTER: Get out of our city. We hate you. Don’t pretend for one second that we like you here. Anybody who does act like they like you is probably making some money or needs to pay their rent. We hate you, go home, and I will never forgive you for what you did to our city this week.

AMY GOODMAN: That last singer, Dan Bern, outside Sotheby’s elite auction house where the protest took place as the Tennessee republican delegates celebrated Johnny Cash. On Democracy Now! on Friday Steve Earle said that Johnny Cash would be rolling in his grave.

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