“I’m not very good at taking rubber bullets to the chest. I'm not very good at screaming at police," Marshall told me over the phone recently. "But I am good at saying powerful things on the microphone that can cause people to think and even change their behaviors.”
"When I think of the early days of the Seattle George Floyd Protests, there are quite a few indelible memories that come to mind. I remember the daily standoff on 11th and Pine between protesters and police that some days ended in peace but much more often ended in tear gas, flashbangs, and rubber bullets. I remember the raw emotion and passion in the air, the chants of, "Take off your riot gear; I don't see a riot here" and "Say her name: Breonna Taylor." I remember the memorial wall where the names of those killed by the police both nationally, like George Floyd, and locally, like Charleena Lyles, were written. On the sidewalk below the memorial wall was a candlelight vigil, where people grieved over the eight-minute and forty-six-second crime against humanity that played out for the world to see. That video touched America to its core, and the inhumanity we all witnessed pierced something deep within our society. There were all types of people from countless backgrounds at the vigil, all pulled together by the common sense of loss we felt as a nation.
Another iconic memory from those days — and the only remnant still standing — is the Marshall Law Band. When most people think of protests for civil rights and equality, especially where tear gas and other impact munitions were deployed, they don’t think about a live band playing in the midst of it — but that’s what separates Marshall Law Band from perhaps any other band in America. During the Western Barricade days of the protests, Marshall Law Band set up on 11th and Pike, just a few hundred feet from the protest impact zone on 11th and Pine, and protesters would stop by to jam out before heading to the Western Barricade. You might be thinking, “A band playing at a protest, okay, that's different, but what's the big deal?” Well, Marshall Law Band kept playing after the tear gas, flashbangs, and rubber bullets came out. Marshall later told me it was watching people he knew on my live-stream struggling to breathe in the heavy gas that inspired him to come out and join the protest in his own way: musically.
Every night for a week, Marshall Law Band played on. Inhaling tear gas, they played on. Dodging rubber bullets, they played on. The music never stopped; Marshall Law Band played on. On the most defiant (and the final) night of the Western Barricade, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) pushed protesters to the intersection of 11th and Pine using flashbangs. Every other night, the protesters immediately scattered and reconstituted their line hundreds of feet away. But on this seventh night of protesting, the protesters did not run. Instead, they stood their ground on 11th and built a makeshift barricade across Pine. As SPD and the National Guard advanced to take a position at the intersection of 11th and Pine, a SWAT vehicle rolled in behind them with an officer positioned in the turret with a rubber bullet gun. When SPD gave an order to disperse, the protesters stood their ground. SPD deployed flash grenades, and the protesters stood their ground.
When the rubber bullets came out, two remarkable things happened. The first was that, in the middle of the chaos on 11th, many protesters went to protect the memorial wall. The second was that, as the rain continued to fall, Marshall Law Band played on. As the police advanced, the flashbangs grew closer, and they were hit with rubber bullets, the band played on. Marshall Law Band did not stop playing that night until peace was restored in the streets. The next morning, SPD abandoned the East Precinct, and CHOP was created. When I think back on the days of the Western Barricade, I remember Marshall Law Band's protest. It was the music that never stopped. No signs, no chants — just music that empowered weary protesters and remained ever-present. Regardless of the danger, the protest house band played on."
Marshall Hugh on
CITIZENS OF THE CHOP PODCAST
Seattle journalist, Omari Salisbury documented the frontlines of the Seattle protests since day one. Omari’s inquisitive coverage and objective commentary have been praised by protestors, government officials, community leaders, residents, and local business owners.
Omari interviewed MLB's Marshall Hugh about the final showdown with police at the east precinct in Seattle, WA and Marshall Law Band's decision to keep performing after police started firing teargas and rubber bullets.
“I couldn’t stand on the sidelines anymore and see people get tear-gassed, but I also knew it wasn’t my role to get tear-gassed. Where I was capable of being a leader was with my unit, playing positive and inspiring revolutionary music.”
We need the world to change. We’re tired of the police killing people. And, you know, you have to defund the police to fund the communities and to free all protesters, you know? So it’s cool, but we’re not content. We’re not excited about it, you know what I mean? And it’s because we feel that way that this is a real life or death situation and our time for revolution.