Say Their Names

by David Rovics

Anarchist Jurisdiction If this were an anarchist jurisdiction, as the president likes to say Then Kendra James and Quanice Hayes would be alive today They would not have been gunned down by a racist police force Because we would have defunded it long ago, of course Taken all that money to spend on things that people need Not violent gangs of thugs in blue making people bleed If this were an anarchist jurisdiction as the Attorney General tells Then we would already have emptied all those prison cells Housing the mentally ill and so many, many more Who are only locked up for being sick or for being poor Or for having been set up, or for crimes of poverty There'd be none of that nonsense under our authority If this were an anarchist jurisdiction, it would be a beautiful scene With so much less asphalt, so much more green And there would be no tear gas, no eviction raids You'd see what solutions look like when they're not just band-aids If the people ran this city, not just millionaires We'd take the stolen profits, that which they call theirs If this were an anarchist jurisdiction as the brownshirts oft repeat You would not see these tents and couches lining every street Without control by corporate interests that dominate our lives Making sure that they have everything, while we're lucky to survive It's profit over people, no matter how much blood they shed If we were calling the shots then you'd turn that on its head If this were an anarchist jurisdiction
I Think I Saw Somebody Die I think I saw somebody die I think I saw him breath his last Lying on the sidewalk With the cars driving past An ambulance pulled over They picked him up and threw him in No question where he's going Who knows where he's been Just another vagrant Here in this city called the Hague Did he die of exposure Or was he a victim of the plague Here by the Court of Justice In the city of the queen In the richest country The Earth has ever seen They talk of moral obligations And international law But I'm not sure how that figures In the things that I just saw I know it's complicated All the ways that life can go All the different opportunities That this guy could never know How many chances did he have How many dead ends did he meet That led him to this sidewalk Where he lay beside the street Two blocks from the Parliament Where they sing the praise Of our country, of our market Of our enterprising ways But what good did all that do To this man that I now see? He couldn't eat their balanced budget Or sleep in their GDP I think I saw somebody die
The FOP On Fire I was at home with the kids when I woke up at 5 am Looked at the news in time to hear pundits condemn The actions of the arsonists who expressed so many desires When they made a barricade and set the FOP on fire It happened in North Portland on the 51st consecutive night Of demonstrations in this city, in this epic fight Between those who defend the inequities of the empire And those with a vision for the future that starts with the FOP on fire Between those who like to fumigate Portland's lovely streets Who prefer to use chemical weapons when they're not wearing those white sheets Or the ones who do Nazi cosplay, like some of the cops they hired Just up until the night they set the FOP on fire The cops drive from the suburbs, each day they come down To defend the interests of the rich, such as the mayor of this town And Mayor Ted loves his tear gas, though he might say that I'm a liar But not the folks who last night set the FOP on fire Let's remember Aaron Campbell, let's remember Kendra James Let's remember Alonso Tucker, say their names And lets remember the many killers, in this progressive shire As the smoke rose up behind them with the FOP on fire
The Flames of History Play another game of Scrabble, put the kids to bed Marvel with them at the way the sky is turning red Keep close tabs on the news, where the fires have arrived Bags packed and ready, if we need to run for our lives See the world darken in the middle of the day Hear the stories of the people whose towns were burned away The tens of thousands driving, obeying the mandate To move faster than the fire and evacuate To a parking lot in Clackamas, camping in the smoke Wondering what remains unburnt, unbroke If things had been unpredictable, they just got even more As fire burns the world from the mountains to the shore Will this place exist tomorrow, it's just a mystery As we're living through the flames of history Play another game of Scrabble, rallies have to wait Even the most dedicated aren't out to demonstrate Maybe packing their belongings or helping others do the same Almost missing all the tear gas, before the fires came They call this the city of bridges, but if we get the cue To evacuate due north, there are only two Chorus Play another game of Scrabble, follow every tweet Of anyone who might be vaguely related to the beat Say sorry to the kids for always looking at my phone Their alerts app doesn't work, no message and no tone If you don't have a way to fly, there's nowhere much to go Just look out at the horizon, hope not to see it glow Chorus Play another game of Scrabble, put the kids to bed
Say Their Names Jacob Blake was walking to his SUV Alton Sterling was selling DVDs Eric Garner had just broken up a fight Breonna Taylor was asleep in the middle of the night Tamir Rice was playing in the park Elijah McClain was out walking after dark Dominique Clayton was sleeping in her bed Where she was shot by a cop in the back of her head Say their names, say their names Walter Scott was driving to a store Bettie Jones was answering her door Philando Castille was driving home with his girlfriend Anthony Hill was naked on the grass when he met his end Ezell Ford was walking in his neighborhood Michael Brown was blown away just standing where he stood Kendra James was shot to death at a traffic stop By yet another unaccountable killer cop Say their names, say their names Atiana Jefferson was playing a video game With her little nephew, gunned down just the same Oscar Grant was celebrating the New Year Handcuffed when the shots rang out that everyone could hear Eric Reason pulled into a parking spot Not long after that was when he was shot George Floyd was just shopping in a store Micah Xavier Johnson thought that he was still at war Say their names, say their names
Elijah Played the Violin His family moved from Denver to Aurora Mama thought they'd be safer out there Away from all the hubbub of the city Closer to the mountains and fresh air Some kids are into fancy cars and football Or getting lots of tattoos on their shin But Elijah played the violin Some kids are into hamburgers and hot dogs Other kids just do things their own way Elijah was a vegetarian And on his lunch breaks he would go and play Music for the animals at the shelter The staff would welcome their young comrade with a grin Elijah played the violin As a young man Elijah moved in with his cousin He became a massage therapist He had a kind and open hand While others only knew the fist Such as the men in blue who were called one night To assault their unknown kin Elijah played the violin They slammed him into the wall, they threw him to the ground Although he made no effort to fight back They choked him til he vomited, and then they did it more No body cams recorded the attack Elijah said he couldn't breathe, he was begging for his life So they shot him full of ketamine Elijah played the violin He went into cardiac arrest – soon after, he was dead And he had not committed one offense Aside from being Black in these dis-United States And trying to exist in the preset tense Nothing happened to the cops, they were just following procedures Killing people for the color of their skin Elijah played the violin
Ballad of Lachlan Macquarie Lachlan Macquarie was a Scotsman who Signed up to serve the British crown He traveled round the world to America Not long after that he headed down To his post in New South Wales to be the governor To expand colonial rule Half of Sydney was named after him Everybody learns his name in school Just don't put Macquarie's words beneath his statue If you do, his defenders might arrest you Lachlan Macquarie was a governor Who opened schools and hospitals His aim was to civilize a nation In the interests of himself and capital He was a raging alcoholic and a bad businessman But you could say he did his best To broaden the global dominion of A project they call the Christian west Chorus Lachlan Macquarie stole children from Their parents, and never gave them back And when Gundagarra and Dharrawal people resisted He ordered his soldiers to attack He said make the Aborigines your prisoners Shoot them and hang them from the trees So as to strike fear in the surviving Natives In order to bring them to their knees Chorus Repeat first verse
Resign (Ballad of Tear Gas Ted) Protests have been going for nigh a hundred nights Shrouded in tear gas and other horrifying sights Riot cops smashing people's heads into the concrete For standing on the sidewalk or for walking in the street During which you'll often hear a unifying line Resign, resign, resign In many places in the world chemical weapons are banned Including in some cities in this very land But here in Portlandia it's anything goes Pull their masks off and spray, in the city of the rose If this is civilization, it's one that's in decline Resign, resign, resign It's a sanctuary city – a sanctuary for whom? Those who don't mind smoke bombs in their living room Those who don't mind being beaten if they're out at the wrong time Thanks to the DA who dropped the charges for the crime But how about a mayor who's not entirely supine? Resign, resign, resign If we defunded the police, things could be so great Then Oregon wouldn't look so much like a failed state It could be a lovely city, here on the river shore If the cops did not attack us like in some dirty war Then the Nazis come to town and don't even get a fine Resign, resign, resign The president dislikes him – we have common enemies Be that as it may, we don't like friends like these Attacking children and reporters, for whichever press Gassing the whole city and making mass arrests You're not flipping houses here, lives are on the line Resign, resign, resign
Born on the Fourth of July As I walk down the streets of this city See the desperate looks everywhere The thin faces across this society The lost and the long-distance stares As I call the Employment Department And the line is once more occupied In this nation that was born on the fourth of July As I hear of the nooses and lynchings As I listen to the president speak Upholding foundations of enslavement and slaughter Beneath a destroyed mountain peak As he talks of restoring America While ignoring all those who have died In this nation that was born on the fourth of July When I see the masked faces around me Across from the policemen lined up in a row Watching them once more astound me As they fire their weapons wherever we go Shooting reporters and legal observers As the curfew is once more defied In this nation that was born on the fourth of July As I hear all the voices so loudly Shouting empty the prisons, defund the police Reasoning so very soundly Occupied by this army, how could we ever have peace As I hear of the dead from LA to New York A disaster no one can deny In this nation that was born on the fourth of July As I survey the wreckage around me All the boarded-up windows of the stores that have closed As I take in the scene that surrounds me All the inequities starkly exposed That tug at the roots of this country Which began with a war that was based on a lie When this nation was born on the fourth of July
Song for Michael Reinoehl For years the right's been growing Fabric tearing at the seams Stark divides showing Made worse by shattered dreams For years gangs of armed men Come with rifles and bear mace To terrorize towns again Pointing guns all over the place An enemy must be found Oh how history repeats With the bodies on the ground Blame their families and their allies marching in the streets I've lost track of how many protesters now Have been run over or shot So there's nothing very surprising how We've got to where we've got For years now they've been coming here And by August 29 Across the spectrum it was clear What was coming down the line On this particular night The man who'd take the fall Was a member of the far right Who had answered his president's call For years it was predicted someday Someone would retaliate With all those weapons on display With that much fear and hate Michael Reinoehl he was sought For murder, the alleged crime But he was never caught Or given a chance for prison time The cops came to the property From local deputies to feds They came to kill their enemy They wanted this anarchist's head For so long it's been true Justice has multiple tracks One for those who back the blue Another for the Brown and Black Or for people like Michael Reinoehl Who just can't stay safe and hide Who see the rising fatal toll And have to take a side If his executioners had bodycams None of them were on They fired forty rounds for Uncle Sam One more antifascist gone For years the right's been growing Fabric tearing at the seams Stark divides showing Amid the shattered American dreams
Ballad of the Oregon Employment Department Sit down for a minute, I'll tell you a story About lots of different people, including yours truly When the pandemic hit, I had to cancel all my shows In the fight against the virus, I guess that's how it goes They said to call this number if you need help with food and rent It's the PUA division of the Department of Employment So I get up every morning since the beginning of the spring But if the department is open, the phone never rings (It's always) beep beep beep, the line is busy Beep beep beep, you'll have to wait Beep beep beep, the only answer The tone of a failed state There just aren't enough programmers who are still alive Who learned how to program back in 1985 When the last update was made to this broken mess Like a testament to the definition of societal stress Chorus My application was rejected, with notes that made no sense It's been three months since I applied, since I've been staring at this fence Survival sourced completely from the crowd Hearing stories of the hunger as I listen to the sound Chorus The department head got fired, as the tragedies mount But we're still waiting for relief – still zero, at last count If you think the keg is burning – that there's tumult on this shore If those checks don't come in soon, who knows what's in store Chorus
The Books of Howard Zinn The president stood at his lectern at a conference of the press The state of education was the subject of his address There should be more patriotism in the schools, more saluting of the flag More about the invention of the telephone and the plastic bag The kids don't need to know about all the bloodied soil About all of the rebellions or all the wars for oil It's all far left propaganda, it should be banned or burned We're just great and getting greater, that's all they need to learn The president said it must stop or the anarchists will win The indoctrination of the youth by the books of Howard Zinn They don't need to know about the workers or the general strikes They need no lessons on the scalpings of adults and kids alike No chapters on the riots that brought us where we are The visions of the damned who followed the North Star Just tell the kids how brilliant were the Founding Fathers all Just see what bullshit sticks when you throw it at the wall Reality doesn't matter, neither does the past So ditch your Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and shred your Howard Fast Chorus The students don't need to know how many souls were lost Beneath the rain of gunships, they don't need to know the cost To the nations that lay shattered, the homeless veterans right here Dying on the sidewalk beside empty cans of beer The kids don't need to think, they just need to serve And be grateful for the billionaire and his steely nerve He'll free us from the confines of knowing up from down Just don't read Jeremy Brecher, Angela Davis or Dee Brown Chorus
East of the 205 If you live in this city you can explore it for years See all there is to see, hear all there is to hear A decade might pass by before you'd ever deign If you're driving down the highway, to take an exit lane That doesn't bring you to the airport, or Multnomah Falls But to the neighborhoods along the way, with the rotting walls Go on, park your car, and take a walk when you arrive East of the 205 If you live in this city you might have sampled all the wine You've been to Salt & Straw and Pok Pok, waited patiently in line Gone to every strip club you ever heard about Tried all the espresso, all the porter, all the stout Without ever having reason to cross that road Beyond which so many are crushed beneath the load Where you can meet a lot of folks just trying to survive East of the 205 If you live in this city and you think it's so high-tech You think it's full of hipsters with tattoos on their necks IT experts and house-flippers, cold brew connoisseurs Shopping malls, poke bowls and segue tours Far beyond the bridges as the tent villages grow As the trees decline in number, and as the stats all show So many die so young as they try to stay alive East of the 205 If you live in this city and you're looking for pickup trucks American flags and trailers full of folk down on their luck Cheap motels with residents breathing fumes all day From all the cars speeding down the highway You don't need to go to Texas or the Chesapeake Bay If, before you reach the suburbs, you stop along the way You'll find a secret city if you go and take a dive East of the 205


A solo acoustic album, about as stripped-down as it gets by definition, but considering that, I like it and I hope you do, too. It's a musical document covering at least some of the events that have been taking place in Oregon and beyond, over the past few months, from early June to late September 2020.


released October 3, 2020

All the songs were written by David Rovics except "I Think I Saw Somebody Die," which was cowritten by David Rovics and Ben Fraters. Vocals and guitar are all David. Co-produced by David Rovics and Billy Oskay. Recorded at Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon with Billy Oskay engineering, mixing, and mastering, assisted by Nicholas Decker. Album cover and posters by Kalindi Jackson.




David Rovics Portland, Oregon

Singer/songwriter, writer, podcaster (on Spotify, Substack & Patreon), anarchist, dad, lover of life.


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