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Is hip-hop a crime? Army imprisoned soldier over lyrical ‘threats’

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Is hip-hop a crime?

The United States Army certainly believes it can be, and that’s just what landed Spc. Marc Hall, of Fort Stewart, Georgia, behind bars on December 11, 2009.

The Army’s reason: Hall’s track “Stop Loss” was determined to contain “threats” against fellow soldiers.

Under the name “Marc Watercus,” Hall rhymed:

Like Obama says somebody be held responsible
But some of you all gonna be held in the hospitals, whenever possible
I’m gonna round up all eventually, easily, walk right up peacefully
And surprise them all

Yes, yes y’all, up against the wall, turn around
I got a motherfuckin’ magazine with 30 rounds, on a three round burst
Ready to fire down, spray and watch the bodies all hit the floor
I bet you don’t stop-loss nobody no more,
in your next lifetime of course

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Listen to the full track here (MP3).

Hall is in an Arlington, Virginia jail after being charged with a violation of Article 134, which governs “all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital,” according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“Another count accuses him of distributing ‘original songs wrongfully threatening acts of violence against members of his unit,'” military publication Stars and Stripes added. “Hall reportedly mailed a copy of the song to the Pentagon after receiving his stop-loss orders over the summer. The song, posted on Hall’s personal Web site, does not name anyone specifically.”

“Hall planned to leave the military at the end of his contract on February 27, before his commander, Captain Cross at Fort Stewart, moved to have him incarcerated for the song,” Dahr Jamail wrote on the political blog t r u t h o u t. “The military currently intends to keep Hall in pre-trial confinement until he is court-martialed, which is expected to be several months from now.”

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“Here’s someone who’s put it into a song and sent it out to everybody, everybody knows it, so it really was political speech,” explained Hall’s lawyer, Washington, D.C.-based James Klimaski, according to local media. “I mean, it’s hyperbole, it’s not real. Nobody can expect that.”

Hall’s attorney further characterized the language as a “generalized threat,” therefore not a criminal offense.

Klimaski also claimed his client “[understands] the Army’s concerns, particularly in light of the shooting at Fort Hood in November, but stressed [Hall] was merely exercising his right to freedom of speech,” according to Georgia newspaper The Coastal Courrier.

“Music is a powerful means of communication but I don’t think it’s going to destroy the American military, particularly this one song,” Klimaski reportedly added.

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Hall and his supporters have raised a Web site to promote his advocacy against the stop-loss policy. AWOL soldier support group Courage to Resist is raising funds for Hall’s legal defense and activist group Iraq Veterans Against the War is also urging its members to support Hall with calls and letters of protest against his imprisonment.

“The chain of command has a legal obligation to the citizens of the United States to investigate and deal fairly with SPC Hall’s alleged misconduct,” Kevin Larson, a military spokesman at Fort Stewart, told Stars and Stripes. “Anything less would be irresponsible to our citizens and soldiers.”

This video was broadcast by Russia Today on Dec. 30, 2009.

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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