Rev. Al Sharpton organized several rallies across the United States on Tuesday urging public divestment from the music industry until record labels stop allowing Rappers to use the "n-word" and other terms that are degrading to women. Sharpton is going after Viacom, Time Warner and Vivendi, which he says would be pressured to clean up lyrics if they were threatened by the withdrawal of government-run pension fund investments.
"The opposition has tried to use the argument of free speech, but they don't have the freedom to use peoples' pension funds against their own will and interest," Sharpton told Reuters from Detroit, where he was part of a rally deploring racist and sexist terms in music. "I'm here in Motown in Detroit as a symbol of when music was not denigrating and was entertaining." About 80 people joined Sharpton's Motown protest, and in New York, about 150 gathered on the sidewalk outside the Virgin Megastore in Times Square.
Sharpton says that legislation proposed in New York state calls for $3 billion in pension fund investments to be moved away from music companies that distribute Rap music with the offending lyrics. Pension funds will only act on such calls if the state tells them to, because their mandate is to maximize returns, not make moral judgments, a spokesman for the California Public Employees Retirement System noted to Reuters. "We get all kinds of divestment calls and this is just the latest," the spokesman said.