Kanye West’s Lack Of Permits Costs Him At Weekend Screenings Of ‘New Slaves’

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Kanye West is attaining quite a bit of hype for “New Slaves,” the first song off his new album, Yeezus, thanks to his clever worldwide art project. But the cities of Baltimore, Houston and San Antonio were having none of it this Memorial Day weekend.

The second wave of projections taking place in the three cities were shut down by police, leaving the crowds that gathered out of luck.

According to the Houston Chronicle, three different screenings of “New Slaves” were supposed to happen in the city on Friday (May 24), but all of them were done before they even began.

Despite what the newspaper called an “upbeat, respectful crowd,” those in attendance at the Rothko Chapel were told to disperse. A Vine video from Chronicle music critic Joey Guerra showed the scene, which he called “a whole lotta nothing.”

According to Houston freelancer Cory Garcia, Houston police told attendees that they were on public property, despite West’s website clearly showing the chapel as a screening location.

Houston Police Department spokesman Keith Smith confirmed to that approval to show the video at the Rothko Chapel had not been granted by its owners.

According to Smith, the sergeant on security duty at the chapel contacted the director of the Rothko once he saw the crowd forming. “That director advised them that they needed to leave,” Smith said, stating that “no approval was granted to show any kind of video” on the chapel building, meaning that the attendees were indeed trespassing, though not purposefully.

The two other locations in Houston had difficulties as well, with a screening at the city’s Central Library experiencing “technical” problems. According to the blog Day and a Dream, the issues had been fixed, but those about to play the video were threatened with a fine if they chose to play it, even after a long back-and-forth dialogue between projectionists and police.

Another at the George Bush Monument ended up being a no-show entirely.

Meanwhile, a similar police reaction occurred to the screenings in Baltimore, with much information coming via Twitter. Early in the evening, the official Baltimore Police Twitter account announced Sunday (May 27) that the “album release events” for West had been cancelled in Baltimore for that night.

That, of course, was a fairly inaccurate tweet, as the schedule of events included a mere screening of a song from Yeezus, not a release of the June 18 album itself. Still, many showed up to the projection locations, after Def Jam Records, West’s label, tweeted that the viewings were, in fact, not cancelled.

The “New Slaves” projection at the Walters Art Museum did in fact go off without a hitch. However, its sister showing at the Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower wasn’t as lucky. “Lets (sic) beat the cops,” Def Jam tweeted, hoping to squeeze in the showing before police involvement.

Unfortunately, Baltimore police were there before the event started, and the screening didn’t occur. A later projection at the H&H Building met the same fate.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton wrote that he overheard a conversation an officer had with the projectionists at the third screening. “If it was up to me… You’re all adults, this is a peaceful crowd,” the officer reportedly told the screeners.

But as was the case at the Rothko Chapel screening in Houston, the necessary permits were not obtained to project the video in that location. Baltimore City Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Sun that those organizing the projections didn’t have permits. Other offenses cited were their “use of lighting” and “anticipated crowds.”

The same can apparently be said for the San Antonio projection, which was to take place at the Alamo. The very existence of the screening had been protested in the preceding days by the Texas Nationalist Movement, which took issue with West’s decision to project “New Slaves” at the location and vowed to get the event shut down.

According to Houston’s KHOU, local police said that the screening was again missing the proper permits, while two other area projections were also cancelled. This was of course good news to the Texas Nationalist Movement protesters. The group later took to its website to call the evening a victory against the “performer and noted lip-sync mogul.”

Meanwhile, screenings in Austin, Texas, as well as other parts of the globe, went on without any trouble at all.

No word on if other screenings had the proper clearance to show the video, or if police simply didn’t bother to shut them down.

-Kevin Rutherford,

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