Former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters has never been one to withhold his political views.
Just listen to the 1977 album Animals, or 1979’s The Wall. We could even go back to the song “Corporal Clegg” from Pink Floyd’s 1968 album A Saucerful of Secrets; or simply check out any of his post-Floyd solo ventures.
It’s obvious from Waters’ latest performances, he is no fan of President Donald Trump.
One view about which Waters feels particularly strongly is the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement seeking to end international support for what many regard as Israel’s oppression toward Palestinians.
Now a Nassau County, New York, legislator is attempting to prohibit Roger Waters from performing in Nassau Coliseum, a public theater, September 15 and 16.
Nassau County, New York, Legislator Howard J. Kopel published a message on his Facebook page that states:
“I was proud that Nassau County signed into Law a piece of Legislation that I sponsored, taking a stand against discrimination and bigotry against Israel. Local law 3-2016 bars companies from doing business with Nassau County if they participate in economic warfare against Israel. My intent in sponsoring this piece of Legislation was simple: embrace the BDS movement and Nassau will not do business with you.
“Upon hearing that Roger Waters, notorious front-man for the BDS movement and virulent anti-semite was to preform [sic] two shows at Nassau Coliseum, a County sponsored facility, I researched the implications of that show under the passed Legislation.
“Allowing Waters, who actively promotes and encourages others to withdraw from commercial relations with Israel and other ‘BDS’ activities as defined by the law to perform at a County owned facility that must comply with all local requirements and governing laws not only violates the law, and the Coliseum Lease, but offends the sense of decency held by our residents.
“Accordingly, I call upon NEC to cancel all currently scheduled performances by Waters in order to be in compliance with the law.”
Nassau County law limits contracting with businesses that:
“[Engage] in any action politically motivated and intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations with Israeli owned or controlled businesses.”
Whether Roger Waters is a “virulent anti-semite” is debatable since the only “anti-semitic” thing he has publicly done is exercise his constitutional right to speak out against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and support the BDS movement.
But is Roger Waters a “business?” Is Legislator Kopel now attempting to violate Roger Waters’ First Amendment rights?
Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, and church-state relations law University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law.
In a piece for the Washington Post, he wrote:
“The First Amendment problem is especially clear when it comes to refusal to allow someone to perform a concert on government property. Such property is likely a “limited public forum,” open to a wide range of speakers for their own speech (though requiring that they pay money for it).
“The government may not discriminate based on speaker viewpoint in administering such property, even if the speaker is planning on expressing that viewpoint right there on the government property. It certainly may not discriminate based on the speaker’s past speech on his own property. It’s not clear to me that the ordinance would even apply to Waters’s concert. But if it did, it would violate the First Amendment.”
Nassau Coliseum supports Waters’ desire to perform there.
Jeffrey Gewirtz, chief legal and administrative officer at Nassau Events Center, argues Nassau County’s BDS law does not apply to Roger Waters because Waters does not have a contract with the county.
In a piece in Newsday, he states:
“NEC respects the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all people and therefore intends the Coliseum — under its stewardship — to be a venue that respects the expression and exchange of a wide variety of ideas and viewpoints.”
Roger Waters is undeterred, though. He is confident the opposition against his performance will not stand.