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Sheriff Fears Riot, But Gorge Concert To Go On Judge Denies Cancellation Request; Group’s Lyrics, History Controversial

Associated Press

A Grant County judge on Wednesday denied the sheriff’s request to halt a controversial rock group’s concert Friday at the Gorge Amphitheater, saying there was no evidence the event could cause a riot.

After hearing from prosecutors and concert promoters, Superior Court Judge Kenneth Jorgensen ruled the concert by Rage Against the Machine will go on.

Jorgensen said he realized drug use at the concert might be “rampant,” and added he understood that law enforcement might be “unnerved” about potential problems.

But he said he could not cancel the event unless there were indications a riot was likely.

The courtroom was packed with residents who live near the remote concert site, as well security workers and staff from Universal Concerts Inc., the operator of the amphitheater’s summer concert series.

After the ruling, Sheriff William Wiester said he planned to meet with concert organizers today to discuss security for the event. He also said his office will ask other area law enforcement agencies for assistance.

“A no-tolerance policy involving criminal behavior will be in place and as many persons as possible will be booked into the Grant County Jail,” he said in a prepared statement.

Wiester also expressed disappointment at Jorgensen’s ruling, saying the rural county will be hard-pressed to deal with concert security, traffic control, drug violations and other problems.

“I believe in freedom of speech from these alternative performers,” he said.

But the concert should not go on because of the potential for rioting and injuries, he said.

Officials for Universal Concerts declined to comment, and officials at Epic Records, Rage Against the Machine’s record label, did not return a phone message Wednesday.

Rage Against the Machine’s brand of rock-rap features angry lyrics that strike out against the American government and perceived social injustices.

During the 1993 Lollapalooza concert in Philadelphia, members of the Los Angeles-based group stood naked on stage for 25 minutes. Each had duct tape across his mouth and letters painted on his chest in protest of music censorship.

In April, producers for “Saturday Night Live” stopped Rage from playing a scheduled second song after band members hung an inverted American flag during the first.

Wiester said Rage Against the Machine has shown it is “hostile toward law enforcement.” He said the group’s concerts result in large numbers of injuries and arrests.

Friday’s 7 p.m. concert will be opened by Atari Teen-age Riot, followed by The Roots and then Rage Against the Machine.

Wu-Tang Clan, a militant rap group originally scheduled to play at the event, decided last week to cancel the remainder of its tour for reasons unrelated to the controversy over the Gorge concert.

Earlier, Wiester requested an order to halt this year’s Lollapalooza festival Aug. 12 over concerns about safety in the amphitheater, about 150 miles east of Seattle. But he later changed his mind and did not challenge the concert, court documents indicate.

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