This is my personal statement and does not represent ComFest as a whole. Some ComFest organizers didn’t want me to release this statement because they wanted to first have our GPC meeting, and would like us to speak as one voice representing ComFest.
I am the person that made the decision to stop the Chicken Hawk Bird Getters from performing “Fuck The Police” at ComFest on Saturday, June 24, 2017. Here is an explanation of what happened and why.
I am the head of the ComFest Entertainment Committee. The Jazz Stage Supervisor came to me saying that one of our police officers had informed him they were aware that the band Chicken Hawk Bird Getters was going to play the NWA song “Fuck the Police,” possibly to incite the crowd. The police liaison did not tell the Stage Supervisor that ComFest needed to do anything, the officer was simply informing him of the situation. The Stage Supervisor consulted with me on what to do. I said to tell the band not to play the song or we would pull the plug, and not allow them to play ComFest again. I made that decision – not the police, not the Stage Supervisor, and not ComFest.
Unknown to myself and the Jazz Stage Supervisor, there had been a meeting with some ComFest organizers and the police – both those we hire and the on-duty officers – where the police informed ComFest they had received a call from a concerned citizen (their words) stating there would be an incident at the Jazz stage during the CHBG set that would call officers to the area, where protestors would be waiting with signs and saying, “fuck the police.” After brief discussion with Chicken Hawk Bird Getters over the phone, it was clear that all the band planned to do was play the NWA cover, that was it. Officers said that was fine, and that they would not respond or interfere. They literally said, “We don’t care about that.” It was no big deal to them.
Here are some of the reasons why I reacted the way I did – it sounded like we were being set up. Why did the police know about it before anyone at ComFest? I thought it possible that some may have wanted to incite the crowd and provoke the police, potentially leading to something violent. It is unlikely that a ComFest crowd would riot, but even small outbursts of violence at large events can turn quickly. It was also possible that drunk people could do stupid, harmful stuff. I was foremost concerned about the safety of the artists and the crowd. I was also concerned that the State Liquor Agency is looking for ways to penalize ComFest, to the point where they seem out to get us.
I am not justifying or excusing my decisions. I think it was a poor choice, made out of fear, that could have been handled much better. I sincerely apologize to the Chicken Hawk Bird Getters, ComFest, and the community for my decision. I hope that we can learn from this experience, both as individuals and as an organization, so that this never happens again. ComFest has and will continue to support artists and their first amendment rights. This was a bad call – we will learn from it and do better.
While I understand people are reasonably angry – especially since ComFest hasn’t offered a clear enough explanation – I don’t want to ignore all the good we accomplished this year. I am certainly not upset with the Chicken Hawk Bird Getters, who did absolutely nothing wrong. I am also not upset with Columbus Alive for their report on this issue. They have been a great voice for the marginalized citizens of Columbus. I would like to thank Andy, Joel, Jim, Erica, and the rest of the the staff for the great work they have done for our community. I hope we can work together more closely in the future.