If freelance journalist Josh Wolf goes to jail for refusing to turn over what federal prosecutors say is video evidence of a crime that allegedly took place during a demonstration in July 2005, he’ll no doubt become a bigger cause célèbre in the lefty blogosphere.
But that doesn’t exactly make the prospect of jail time tantalizing. Wolf was hit with civil-contempt charges after refusing to testify before a federal grand jury and turn over video footage he’d obtained at a demonstration last summer in the Mission District against a G8 meeting in Scotland.
Some of the video has appeared publicly and Jeffrey Finigan, a prosecuting attorney involved in the case, saw it and wanted more. Prosecutors believe other portions of the tape, edited out by Wolf, contain evidence of protesters torching a cop car. Wolf denies that but says he’s standing on principle in withholding the tape. At the state level, Wolf is protected by California’s Shield Law, which is designed to protect the news-gathering process, but there is no federal equivalent.
Wolf attended a contempt hearing last week in federal court, where Judge William Alsup extended the issue to a future date, giving Finigan and Wolf’s East Bay attorney, José Luis Fuentes, time to iron out remaining questions about what protection Wolf might be afforded as a journalist. Wolf is also receiving help from the San Francisco office of the National Lawyers Guild and announced at a prehearing press conference that the Society of Professional Journalists recently gave $1,000 to his defense fund.
Wolf’s legal team has regularly lobbied the court to allow documents related to the case to be made publicly available, and several of them have been posted at Wolf’s Web site, Joshwolf.net. “We fought really hard to make all of those documents public,” Wolf said at the press conference. “It’s a situation where we have a lot of public information about it, which we’re lucky to have.”
Even if the contempt charges are tossed, Wolf could still decide to testify and turn over the tape with or without immunity from criminal charges that could be filed against him for any role he may have played in the alleged vandalism. At the press conference, Fuentes insisted the police department still has not stepped forward with any description of damages or subsequent costs reutf8g to the car.
The day of the press conference, Wolf’s story appeared on the blog Huffingtonpost.com via contributor Stephen Kaus. “The fact is that the effectiveness of the press is substantially diminished if every reporter is turned into a ‘surveillance camera’ as Wolf has claimed,” Kaus wrote. “Perhaps with exceptions for genuinely ‘terrible’ situations, the press cannot function if each crime-related story could turn into days of court testimony.” SFBG
Volume 40 Number 43
July 26 – August 1, 2006
“This year, $25,613 for 16 officers. Last year, $4,650 for 7 officers,” fest organizer Robert Kowal told the Guardian. “We just want to put on a free concert, and the public stance toward us has been extremely obstructionist and inflammatory.”
Captain James Dudley told us the bill was a draft based on last month’s North Beach Festival, where the addition of a beer garden to the event scheme actually made their job a little harder because of multiple entrances and a confused private security.
“So we fully staffed it,” said Dudley.
After threatening a lawsuit, Kowal and his co-organizers sat down with Dudley and worked out a plan that would require more private security and volunteers and fewer of the costly badges and billy clubs.
“The police are to be commended for sticking with what keeps them safe, but we’re a much smaller event, and we only have one street closure,” said Kowal. Only in their wildest woodwind dreams would the Jazz Fest organizers hope for a crowd as large as the North Beach Festival’s. And they are hoping. Due to the change in alcohol policy and the additional security, the fest is still expected to cost $15,000–$20,000 more than last year.
“We made a lot of compromises to make sure this festival is still free,” said Kowal. “We’re hoping someone comes forward with a big donation. But we need a miracle. We need a really sunny day and we need to sell a lot of Angel Passes.”
For jazz fans who want to chip in, the fest is offering “Angel Packages” for $100, which include tickets to all four night shows (which are not free) and an “I Saved North Beach Jazz Fest” T-shirt. (Witherell)
Outside of North Beach, the party is still on. That’s good news for San Francisco festivalgoers, but it leaves one outstanding question: What exactly is current city policy on promoting partying in public spaces?
Once again, the forum was the Recreation and Park Commission’s monthly meeting, this one July 19. It wasn’t exactly a reprise of the perplexing mess surrounding the North Beach festivals (see “The Death of Fun,” 5/23/06), but it did involve the same question of whether to allow drinking in city parks.
The commission approved a request from Seven Star to produce a two-day World Beat Music Concert in Sharon Meadow on May 19 and 20 next year. The application included codas for a modified sound policy and permission to sell beer and wine, which was granted without so much as a clarifying question, a scrutiny of beer garden site plans, testimony from event planners, or a peep of public comment.
This permit is practically identical to the permits submitted by the North Beach Festival and North Beach Jazz Festival for use of Washington Square Park, which incited no end of grief among event planners, neighborhood activists, local businesses, musicians, fans, and fun lovers throughout the city. The one apparent difference is that it’s not in Washington Square Park, whose use as a festival site has raised concerns among North Beach residents.
“That’s why it sailed right through,” said Dennis Kern, director of operations for the Recreation and Park Department. There are 56 greenways listed in Section 4.10 of the Park Code that prohibit consumption of alcohol. Introduced back in 1981, the code has been amended four times over the years to include additional parks. Washington Square joined the list in 2000, but in the case of the festivals, the code has historically been waived without fanfare.
This year, however, Kern broke with tradition by recommending that beer and wine not be sold in the park during the North Beach Festival and North Beach Jazz Fest. The festivals ultimately appealed, and a compromise was reached allowing alcohol sales outside the park.
When questioned by the Guardian as to whether future recommendations would follow suit, Kern said, “Yeah, probably. Each one is a separate case, but we’ll continue to follow the Park Code. The commission can always grant their exceptions.” SFBG
After a miserable World Cup performance, someone has to redeem Brazil’s cultural status in the eyes of observers. With a critically acclaimed performance at SXSW under his belt and his self-titled US debut on Six Degrees, Lenine may be just the man for the job. Brazil’s überpopular singer-songwriter is spearheading the latest neo-tropicália movement, following in the footsteps of artists like Caetano Veloso and Os Mutantes. Inspired by the cosmopolitan samba vibe of his current base in Rio de Janeiro, Lenine mixes intelligent lyrics with rock, hip-hop, and electronica into an equatorial sound that transforms rustic native rhythms into incredibly lush pop music.
Lenine’s hometown of Recife in northeastern Brazil has historically attracted a rich ethnic mix of Africans, Portuguese, Dutch, and indigenous South Americans. However, when asked about his own ethnic roots, Lenine offers a less than literal answer. “I have roots and I have antennas,” he says on the phone from Rio.
“My roots are usually underground and hidden…. You see the fruit, the leaves, the branches, but the roots are not shown. What’s most important to me is the expression, not where it comes from.”
At a recent performance at Cité de la Musique in Paris, Lenine exhibited this preferred mode of expression by choosing to collaborate with a Pan-American group including Cuban bassist Yusa and Argentine percussionist Ramiro Musotto.
Though he’s been referred to as Brazil’s answer to Prince, Lenine sees himself as more in line with history’s troubadours. “I completely relate to that figure who since early days has traveled around to chronicle human life,” he explains. “Today when I hear Neil Young or Serge Gainsbourg, I hear the echoes of that tradition. As a singer-songwriter I use my instrument to document life as I pass through it.”
Today the singer-songwriter finds inspiration in northeast Brazilian rhythms like maracatu, xote, and baião but points to his move to Rio de Janeiro 28 years ago as the real turning point in his career. “It completely changed me and crystallized my art,” he says. “When I arrived in Rio, it was a desire that hadn’t yet been realized…. My whole career as a musician began and was constructed in Rio.”
Lenine’s US debut compiles work from his three Brazilian releases, including collaborations with US groups like Living Color and Yerba Buena. The album opens with “Jack Soul Brasileiro,” an homage to famous Brazilian percussionist Jackson do Pandeiro. “He was one of the greatest percussionists the world has ever seen,” Lenine explains. “This is a person who never went to school, yet at least 90 percent of Brazilian musicians refer to him somehow in their work. It’s great street music that’s completely nonacademic.”
The songwriter emphasizes the huge influence of Brazilian street music on his work, typified by embolado, the rapid-fire style of rapping that emerged from the streets of northeastern Brazil. “It’s not only the music but the attitude of the street that comes into direct conflict with an academic approach to music,” he observes. “I love exploring this conflict and want to break down these walls.” SFBG
Tues/1, 7 p.m.
Swedish American Hall
2170 Market, SF