The National’s Aaron Dessner Responds After He Was Misidentified as a Riot Ringleader

Aaron Dessner wants to make it clear, he’s no Antifa organizer. And he’s got photos to prove it.

The National’s multi-instrumentalist responded on Sunday (May 31) after he was unwittingly dragged into a bizarre conspiracy theory that he’s an instigator in some of the riots that have flared across the country.

Dessner was accused by several right-ring social pages as being a  ringleader who paid kids to wreck havoc in Ohio.

“Meet Aaron Dressner, he’s an Antifa organizer paying people to riot!! He needs to be arrested NOW!!,” reads a post from an alt-right account, which encourages followers to retweet. Thousands of Twitter users have taken up the offer, as thousands more on the left pile on for an almighty mocking session.

It’s all a case of mistaken identify, Dessner writes. And he even presented an alibi, as if it were needed.

“I’m very fortunate and grateful to wake up every morning in the rural countryside I live in, looking at farmland and these beautiful mountains. I’ve been here for three months now isolating with my wife and young children,” he wrote.

“This morning I’ve woken up to the unpleasant and surprising news that I’ve been misidentified by some social media users as someone seen encouraging rioting in Columbus, Ohio. I am not the person some are suggesting I am and I would never support violence of any kind. Nor have I been in Ohio since June 2019.”

When he’s not isolating with his family, Dessner is a key member of The National, whose most recent album, 2019’s I Am Easy to Find, peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and ruled the Vinyl Albums chart.

By early Sunday, at least 40 cities imposed curfew to counter growing civil unrest, ignited by the death of George Floyd after his heavy-handed arrest by Minneapolis police.

Some 5,000 National Guard members have been activated in 15 states and Washington, DC, with another 2,000 prepared to deploy, CNN reports on Sunday.

Jay-Z Says Justice for George Floyd is ‘A First Step’ for Healing America

Talk is good, action is better. That’s the spirit of a post from Jay-Z, who is calling on Attorney General Keith Ellison to prosecute those responsible for the killing of George Floyd to the “fullest extent of the law.”

Jay-Z, like so many other musicians around the U.S. and the rest of the world, has expressed outrage at the brutal arrest of Floyd by Minneapolis police, which resulted in his death. Video of the incident was captured by onlookers and has gone viral.

Jay-Z spoke with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who announced on the weekend he’d tapped Ellison to take over the case and lead the investigation.

“Earlier today,” he writes, “Governor Walz mentioned having a human conversation with me – a dad and a black man in pain. YES, I am human, a father and a black man in pain and I am not the only one.”

The hip-hop superstar and businessman continues, “Now I, along with an entire country in pain, call upon AG Ellison to do the right thing and prosecute all those responsible for the murder of George Floyd to the fullest extent of the law.”

Anger has turned to mass protests after Derek Chauvin, the police officer who pinned Floyd down with a knee to the neck in the grisly video, was sacked from the force and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

At least 25 cities around the United States are under curfew, as the National Guard assembles as a show of force in some districts. The rest of the world is watching on, wondering how this powder-keg will be defused.

Justice for Floyd is “just a first step” for healing the country, explains Jay-Z. “I am more determined to fight for justice than any fight my would-be oppressors may have.”

Walz confirmed Ellison’s appointment as lead prosecutor came shortly after the Hennepin County prosecutor said he invited Ellison to assist in the probe.

“I prevail on every politician, prosecutor and officer in the country to have the courage to do what is right,” concludes Jay-Z. “Have the courage to look at us as humans, dads, brothers, sisters and mothers in pain and look at yourselves.”

Speaking at a press conference Sunday (May 31), Walz said the decision to give Walz the reins in the case is one that “takes us in that direction and the step to start getting the justice for George Floyd.”

Ellison will be expected to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit for justice. He has said that it’s too early to answer questions about the case.

“Prosecuting police officers for misconduct, including homicide and murder, is very difficult, and if you look at the cases that have been in front of the public in the last many years, it’s easy to see that is true,” he said at Sunday’s media gathering. “Every single link in the prosecutorial chain will come under attack as we present this case to a jury or a fact finder.”

The other three officers involved in Floyd’s arrest are also under investigation and could faces charges.

On accepting responsibility for leadership on this “critical” investigation, Ellison tweeted: “We are going to bring to bear all the resources necessary to achieve justice in this case.”

View this post on Instagram

@mngovernor #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd

A post shared by Roc Nation (@rocnation) on

 

Thomas Rhett ‘Heartbroken and Angry’ Over George Floyd’s Death: ‘What Happened Was Pure Hate’

Country singer Thomas Rhett and wife Lauren Akins, who are parents to a black daughter, are speaking out against racism following the murder of George Floyd.

“As the father of a black daughter and also two white daughters- I have struggled with what to say today,” Rhett wrote on Instagram Sunday (May 31). “We have navigated forms of racism directly and while there is mostly overwhelming support and love for our family, sometimes there is just the opposite. Because of that fear, it can be a lot easier to choose silence, but today I’m choosing to speak.”

The couple adopted their eldest daughter, Willa Gray, from Uganda in 2017. They also have two biological children, Ada James and Lennon Love.

“I have no clue what it feels like to be profiled by authorities, treated negatively or have my life threatened because of the color of my skin,” he said. “When I witnessed the horrific murder of George and think about the mistreatment of other black men and women in America, I am heartbroken and angry.”

The death of Floyd, an unarmed Minneapolis resident killed when a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, has sparked nationwide protests.

“I get scared when I think about my daughters and what kind of world they will be growing up in and how my JOB as a father is to show them how to lead with love in the face of hate. To know their worth and value as not only women but human beings,” Rhett said.

He continued: “I have witnessed my black band and crew members on the road struggle at times with feeling safe because of the color of their skin. This is unacceptable. I don’t believe in hate. I believe in love. What happened to George was pure hate. We are all created by the same God. I pray for a change in heart of those hearts who have been overcome by hatred and hardened. I pray for a deeper understanding for myself and awareness of the experience of mistreatment that those of another skin color go through. I pray for the families of those who have lost their lives to violence or experienced trauma at the hand of racial oppression and injustice.”

“What can we do?” he wrote. “I ask myself this question everyday. We each have to be part of the solution and we have to continue to educate ourselves, continue to support both financially and with service those organizations doing good work in our communities to overcome injustice and hatred in our country. And if you’re like me, continue to pray.”

“So if there is any question on where I stand let me be clear- I stand with you, I stand with George and his family and all those who have faced racism. I stand with my wife and my daughters. We will be fighting this fight for the rest of our lives,” Rhett stated.

Wife Lauren Akins also posted on Instagram on Sunday.

“I have been nervous to post anything in the past and even now because of how some people believe that I as a white mother am undeserving or incapable of raising a black daughter,” she said. “I believe that shaming comes from people who choose to see only my white skin and her brown skin and refuse to see our hearts and love for each other.”

“That shaming has created such anxiety in me that I am afraid to share my heart on social media,” she admitted. “But as her mother, I want her to be VERY sure that I am HER mother who stands up not only for her, but for every single person who shares her beautiful brown skin. I want to be her mother who raises her to know what it means to have brown skin and to be proud of it. I want to be her mother who doesn’t listen to the shaming of skin colors but instead listens to the Spirit of God who knitted every skin color together in their mother’s womb for His glory. Because the truth is: I AM HER mother who FIGHTS for her. I am her mother who celebrates not only WHO she and her two sisters are, but WHOSE they are and exactly who God created them to be.”

See their heartfelt notes below.

View this post on Instagram

As the father of a black daughter and also two white daughters- I have struggled with what to say today. We have navigated forms of racism directly and while there is mostly overwhelming support and love for our family, sometimes there is just the opposite. Because of that fear, it can be a lot easier to choose silence, but today I’m choosing to speak. I have no clue what it feels like to be profiled by authorities, treated negatively or have my life threatened because of the color of my skin. When I witnessed the horrific murder of George and think about the mistreatment of other black men and women in America, I am heartbroken and angry. I get scared when I think about my daughters and what kind of world they will be growing up in and how my JOB as a father is to show them how to lead with love in the face of hate. To know their worth and value as not only women but human beings. I have witnessed my black band and crew members on the road struggle at times with feeling safe because of the color of their skin. This is unacceptable. I don’t believe in hate. I believe in love. What happened to George was pure hate. We are all created by the same God. I pray for a change in heart of those hearts who have been overcome by hatred and hardened. I pray for a deeper understanding for myself and awareness of the experience of mistreatment that those of another skin color go through. I pray for the families of those who have lost their lives to violence or experienced trauma at the hand of racial oppression and injustice. What can we do? I ask myself this question everyday. We each have to be part of the solution and we have to continue to educate ourselves, continue to support both financially and with service those organizations doing good work in our communities to overcome injustice and hatred in our country. And if you’re like me, continue to pray. So if there is any question on where I stand let me be clear- I stand with you, I stand with George and his family and all those who have faced racism. I stand with my wife and my daughters. We will be fighting this fight for the rest of our lives. Rest In Peace, George. We are not letting this go.

A post shared by ThomasRhettAkins (@thomasrhettakins) on

View this post on Instagram

I have been nervous to post anything in the past and even now because of how some people believe that I as a white mother am undeserving or incapable of raising a black daughter. I believe that shaming comes from people who choose to see only my white skin and her brown skin and refuse to see our hearts and love for each other. That shaming has created such anxiety in me that I am afraid to share my heart on social media. But as her mother, I want her to be VERY sure that I am HER mother who stands up not only for her, but for every single person who shares her beautiful brown skin. I want to be her mother who raises her to know what it means to have brown skin and to be proud of it. I want to be her mother who doesn’t listen to the shaming of skin colors but instead listens to the Spirit of God who knitted every skin color together in their mother’s womb for His glory. Because the truth is: I AM HER mother who FIGHTS for her. I am her mother who celebrates not only WHO she and her two sisters are, but WHOSE they are and exactly who God created them to be. It’s hard for me to sort out what it is I want to say to her, and what it is I want to say to the rest of the world. I do think there are parts of my heart that can be shared with the world publicly, but then there are parts of my heart that should be kept here at home just for her and all of my children. However, I do believe I’m being disobedient to God if I don’t speak up against injustice and fight for change. I believe if I stay silent I am betraying my brothers and sisters. I believe if I stay silent I am betraying my daughter. I believe if I stay silent I am betraying the heart of God. Don’t stay silent. Fight. Use the most powerful weapon of all: love. Look to the One who created that weapon and follow His lead. Together, let’s be an army for love. That means speaking up loudly for injustices whether or not we share the same skin color, language, beliefs…the list goes on. I want my children to cling to the good. Love, peace, kindness, joy. I want them to BE the good. Injustice is evil. It breaks the heart of God. I pray He breaks every one of our hearts over this injustice until He returns.

A post shared by Lauren Akins (@laur_akins) on

Amara La Negra, Residente & More Latin Artists Speak Out After George Floyd’s Death

Latin artists like Residente, Amara La Negra, Orishas’ Yotuel Romero, Ricky Martin, Becky G, Luis Fonsi, Rosalía and Rauw Alejandro, among others, are speaking out after the death of George Floyd to demand justice and express their solidarity with the black community.

In the midst of national outrage over yet another black person’s death at the hands of police — Floyd was suffocated by a Minneapolis police officer during an arrest — Puerto Rican rapper/songwriter Residente shared with his millions of followers on social media the number to call to report the police officers involved in the death of Floyd. “[I’m] reporting the police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd. You just have to call +1 6123244499 and follow the instructions,” he wrote.

Amara La Negra took the streets of Miami to join the thousands of protesters around the country demanding justice and an end to systemic racism. “I am Dominican and proud of it. My parents are Dominican. But first I AM BLACK. And I will always defend my people. I have always talked about the discrimination I have suffered, we have suffered.”

Meanwhile, Ricky Martin shared part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “The Other America” speech: “And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

Earlier this week, a video of Floyd’s death surfaced showing Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Floyd for eight minutes. Chauvin was later charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd.

Over the weekend, a number of Latin artists joined the cry for justice on social media. See their posts below.

View this post on Instagram

Yo Soy Dominicana y orgullosa de Serlo! Ya que mis padres son dominicanos. Pero Primero SOY NEGRA! Y Siempre defender a Mi Raza! A las injusticias! Siempre lo he hecho esto no es nuevo. siempre he hablado de la discriminación que he sufrido y sufrimos! Es muy fácil juzgar y criticar pero si usted no nació en este color de piel tal vez nunca entenderá lo que se siénte ser negro en este mundo! Cómo la gente mira a uno.. cómo te juzgan sin conocerte por el color de tu piel! Ya estamos hartos del racismo! De que piensen que somos menos que nadie! No tan solo en este País! Si no en el mundo entero!!!!!!!!!!! No estoy de acuerdo con lo que muchos están haciendo! utilizando violencia, rompiendo y acabando con nuestra comunidad sin embargo entiendo y reconozco que por años se han hecho marchas ,se ha protestado se han mandado cartas al gobierno , a el presidente y nada cambia! Nadie hace nada! todo lo que está pasando en estos momentos es porque el pueblo está adolorido! frustrado! De los abusos! De qué nos discriminen! nos maten! Y qué nadie haga nada! Que no les importan! El que yo sea latina no me hace menos negra! Y la discriminación no es solamente con los negros también pasa con los latinos! Es tan triste muchos gozan de nuestra música de nuestro arte de nuestras mujeres de nuestros hombres sin embargo en momentos como este veo a muchos callados! Este es el momento de hablar! De actuar! Unidos somos más Fuertes! El mundo nunca cambiará si tú no aportas! Si no ayudas! Ayúdame por favor! Habla! Protesta! Di halgo!!!! No es justo porfavor! Llegamos a este país como esclavos y es 2020 y todavía no hay igualdad de derechos para nosotros! #UnidosSomosMasFuertes ✊✊✊

A post shared by A M A R A "LA NEGRA" (@amaralanegraaln) on

View this post on Instagram

#georgefloyd

A post shared by @ yotuelorishas on

View this post on Instagram

Your struggle is my struggle. Tu lucha es mi lucha.

A post shared by Pitbull (@pitbull) on

View this post on Instagram

For days I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, analyzing a never ending problem. My heart hurts for the brutal murder of George Floyd may God Rest His Soul. #justiceforgeorgefloyd My heart goes to his family and his loved ones. Justices needs to be served. We have a problem, a problem with no signs of ending. It’s not that there is more cases, people are filming now. Being a latino immigrant was tough and it still is. When i came to this country I automatically became a victim. I am NO LONGER A VICTIM. I know who i am,i know where i came from and i know where i want to be. I will always stand for what’s right not because of race but also because we are HUMAN and thats the only race. There are bad cops and good cops, there bad people and good people. Lets not mess it up for the ones trying to do GOOD. We need to be better, i see people posting posting and posting, next day they are in a boat partying or continuing there little “Perfect Lives.” Thats the fakest shit ever. Awareness? What more awareness do we need? It is evident that whats been going on for years and years is not a secret. How can we make the change? Lets find the ROOT and outsmart them. Lets prove to them we are NO THUGS, there favorite cynical frase. Im really mad, YOU are mad and you have all the right to be mad but we can do better and not feed from ignorance. I was reading about how can we make a change. I saw Kim Kardashian fighting for the prison reform. Is like how can you make a change in a broken and corrupted system. She started going to law school to break in the system and make a real change and thats the smart way to do it. She went to the root of the problem. Lets Have a Voice by Voting! We are smart, we can break into the system without looting and destroying our home but by attacking the problem from the root. Trust me is gonna be tough and challenging BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE. Remember We Cant Put Out Fire With Fire. Love and Wisdom will rule and conquer. Love y’all and please be safe -Maffio

A post shared by MAFFIO (@maffio) on

Universal Music Group Launching Social Justice Task Force

As protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police continue across the country, Universal Music Group (UMG) plans to launch a company task force for inclusion and social justice initiatives.

Chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge included the task force news in a recent memo to staff, which was first reported by Variety and has been obtained by Billboard. The task force will be led by chief counsel Jeff Harleston. “Everything will be on the table,” Grainge writes, including “providing additional employee education and assistance, enhancing our philanthropy” and “using the power of our astonishingly vast catalog to effect change.”

“We all have much to do,” Grainge adds. “I ask each of you to seriously consider how you can best help UMG become a better and more just place to work, and how we can use our influence in culture to make the world a more just place to live. There will be ample opportunities for everyone in the company to be involved including our artists and songwriters.”

The letter is part of a wider call to action following Floyd’s death on May 25, after he was held down at the neck by a police officer during an arrest. Musicians and industry executives are among those calling for “Black Out Tuesday,” an initiative that asks companies to take steps to disconnect this week in solidarity with protesters.

As part of the initiative, UMG label Interscope Geffen A&M (along with its affiliated labels Alamo, LVRN and Bad Boy, among others) announced that it will not release any music for the week of June 1. Warner Music Group, Sony/ATV, BMG and other labels have pledged to take various steps to support “Black Out Tuesday” on social media.

“To be clear, we strongly support protest initiatives such as Black Out Tuesday and other valuable and heartfelt non-violent protests,” Grainge adds in the memo. “And, by ‘we,’ that is to say not only UMG, but our labels, UMPG and our other companies — each of which will be communicating about it in its own unique voice.”

Read the full memo, below.

Dear Colleagues,  

The news this past week has been horrendous.  There is simply no other way to put it.

First, let me stress that, for those who are understandably traumatized by these events, resources are available to you, including professional counseling. I encourage anyone in need to take advantage of them.

This week, yet again we saw our society’s most painful realities about race, justice and inequality brought—cruelly and brutally—into the harsh light of day. But no matter how shocked or saddened or infuriated we may be, we cannot just despair. We must act. Each one of us has a duty to do what we can to alter those realities, to help build a society that is far less unequal and much more just.

For some, that starts with protest—the simple constitutionally guaranteed right to be heard.

To be clear, we strongly support protest initiatives such as Black Out Tuesday and other valuable and heartfelt non-violent protests.  And, by “we,” that is to say not only UMG, but our labels, UMPG and our other companies—each of which will be communicating about it in its own unique voice.

But, as we know, protest is just a start, not a solution.  Real and constructive change—lasting change—requires sustained focus and unwavering commitment over time.

For sure, I am proud of our leadership and our efforts to improve ourselves.  But that, too, is only a start.  We must do more and now is the time to do it—and to do it with an unprecedented sense of urgency.  Even more importantly, we must commit ourselves not merely for this week, but we must continue that commitment—without let-up—in the months and years ahead.

So here’s what we’re going to do.  I’ve appointed our General Counsel Jeff Harleston to lead a UMG Task Force to accelerate our efforts in areas such as inclusion and social justice.  Jeff is convening a group of qualified executives from throughout the company to review our current programs, identify gaps and deficiencies, update our plan where it’s outdated, propose new initiatives, and ensure that these issues remain at the top of our agenda.

Everything—raising our voices in Congress, providing additional employee education and assistance, enhancing our philanthropy, using the power of our astonishingly vast catalog to effect change—everything will be on the table.  The systemic nature of the problems are just too critical to leave anything off.

Jeff will start filling you in on the details next week.

We all have much to do.  I ask each of you to seriously consider how you can best help UMG become a better and more just place to work, and how we can use our influence in culture to make the world a more just place to live.  There will be ample opportunities for everyone in the company to be involved including our artists and songwriters.

Music has always been a driving force for inspiring social change.  The voices of our artists and the songs of our songwriters have changed the world.  And they will continue to do just that.    

We will amplify those voices.  

We will address these issues.   

Together.    

Thank you again for all you do.  Stay safe.  

Sincerely,    

Lucian 

John Legend Reminds Protesters to Stay Safe Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

With protests happening nationwide, John Legend is warning those out in the crowd that COVID-19 is still a very real and deadly virus. The singer voiced his support for peaceful protesting over the death of George Floyd, but also reminded people to take precautions to protect themselves and others from getting sick.

“Please stay as safe as you can. There is still a deadly virus that thrives on people being really close to each other. Distance as much as possible and wear a mask to protect yourself and others!” he tweeted on Sunday (May 31).

Over on Instagram, Lizzo went live to address racism and violence at protests in Minneapolis on Sunday, and echoed that reminder to stay safe. “Wear a mask, wear some gloves, wear some goggles. We’re still in a pandemic,” she said.

On Saturday, Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, pledged to donate $200,000 to bail out protesters. Legend clarified that they will be supporting efforts to organize, support and defend “those marching for justice.” The Bail Project, Movement 4 Black Lives and the National Lawyers Guild are three organizations to which the couple will be donating money.

See Legend’s message below.

Coronavirus

‘Verzuz’: Kirk Franklin & Fred Hammond Bring ‘Moment of Healing,’ New Music Video Announcement

Gospel singers Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond turned the latest ‘Verzuz’ battle into a much-needed healing session amid a painful week.

After the death of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that have followed, Franklin and Hammond — wearing coordinating “I Can’t Breathe” and “I Can’t Breathe Again” statement shirts — went live with their uplifting music Sunday night (May 31) on Instagram. Franklin also left fans looking forward to his new music video, which he said will drop Monday.

Bishop T.D. Jakes opened the music event with words of hope.

“Darkness everywhere, seemingly everywhere,” he said. “Today we pray for light because we have seen too much darkness, from Trayvon to George Floyd. From 100K people dead from Covid … Lord knows we’ve seen too much darkness.”

Jakes continued, “I don’t know about you … but sometimes I feel like that knee is on my back and I can’t breathe. But let everything that has breath praise the lord.,” and led viewers with a prayer: “We pray back the darkness, we pray back the dark clouds … the injustice, the immorality … We pray it back out of our country, out of our world … out of minds, out of every crevice, out of every shadow, we cast you out! … Oh God, whereever there is pain, giving healing … Where ever there is despair, give hope … The joy is coming in the morning. I can hear the ticktock on the wall … We are getting closer and closer … To the morning … It will not be long until joy comes into your heart, our communities, our lives, our homes our churches. Joy is coming in the morning. And we will breathe again. Amen.”

Before the tracks were played, Franklin said, “It’s been a painful week. It’s been a difficult week. We want to make it a moment of healing for you. We have 42 songs to give to you. We know the pain, we see the pain.”

That impressive song list even included a surprise appearance by Tamela Mann for a live rendition of “Take Me to the King,” with Franklin on keys.

By the end of Sunday night’s ‘Verzuz,’ Franklin kept moods high with an announcement: “To all the first responders, to everyone working on the frontline, I did a video I’m gonna put out tomorrow.”

The music video for “Strong God” off of his Long, Live, Love album will be released tomorrow, and with it, Franklin said he wanted to “salute the people that are standing on the frontline on so many levels during this pandemic — we have several pandemics at one time.”