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Rapper sues Detroit over First Amendment violations

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         MICHIGAN         Prior Restraints         Jul 20, 2000    

Rapper sues Detroit over First Amendment violations

  • The City of Detroit faces a $25 million lawsuit for threatening to arrest a rap artist if he played a video with nudity and violence during his concert.

Rapper Dr. Dre on July 14 sued the City of Detroit, the mayor’s spokesman and two police officials for violating his First Amendment rights when they threatened to arrest him if he aired a controversial video during his concert.

Andre Young, who uses the name Dr. Dre professionally, claims his free speech and due process rights were violated when city officials demanded that the eight-minute video depicting partially nude women and a bloody shootout be dropped from the July 6 concert at Joe Louis Arena. The suit, filed in federal District Court in Detroit, seeks $25 million on behalf of the rapper and promoter Chronic 2001 Touring Inc.

The suit alleges that Detroit Police Commander Gary Brown threatened to arrest Young, the tour’s promoters, and anyone who played the video. He also said he would immediately shut down the show, regardless of any ensuing audience unrest.

“Faced with 11th hour threats and demands of the city and its significant police presence, [Dr. Dre] was forced to not exhibit the video during the performance rather than risk harm to his fans,” the complaint alleged, according to an AP report.

A similar controversy had occurred the night after the Detroit concert. In that incident, the city of Auburn Hills, a Detroit suburb, had demanded the video be withheld from that night’s concert, threatening arrests and charges of contributing to the delinquency of minors. The promoter’s lawyer sought an injunction against the city that afternoon, and federal District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds ruled that the city could not block the video from being shown.

“The content of the video is irrelevant. This was prior restraint of expression,” attorney Herschel Fink told the Detroit Free Press. “The cops don’t have the right to be judge and jury.”

The police issued Dr. Dre a misdemeanor citation for promoting pornography after the concert.

(Young v. City of Detroit; Media Counsel: Lawrence Murphy, Detroit; Chronic 2001 Touring Inc. v. City of Auburn Hills; Media Counsel: Herschel Fink, Detroit) MT


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