Roasts Against Police Are the New Sounds of Protest

When you slap a beat on them, complaints about police brutality become all the more compelling — and more importantly, shareable

Last Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission assembled on Zoom to hear from Angelenos regarding their response to protests sparked by the horrific murder of George Floyd. It was held one day after Police Chief Michael Moore suggested that looters were just as responsible for Floyd’s death as the Minneapolis police officers who knelt on his body and/or watched it happen. It was held after several days of police violence against demonstrators, including the deployment of rubber bullets, tear gas and flash-bang grenades. It was held after nearly 3,000 peaceful protestors had already been arrested in Southern California alone.

Hundreds of impassioned Angelenos called in — the meeting reached capacity after only a few minutes — demanding Moore’s resignation, insisting his department be defunded and administering burn after burn after burn in response to how poorly his department had responded to the protests. There was no shortage of eloquent, animated complaints, but there was a clear standout: Eight hours in, as the meeting was nearing its end, a caller (and hero) named Jeremy Frisch used his 30-second time limit to unleash a fiery, expletive-ridden rant against Moore and his department, a diatribe that immediately went viral as an example of what it really means to be an ally and what it really means to speak up against police brutality. Behold:

In the week since Frisch demonstrated the power of words to the Los Angeles Police Commission, his speech — and especially his potent closing statement — has continued to spread across the internet, becoming widely recognized as the ethos of American feelings toward the police in our country. Who among us has not wanted to walk up to a power-hungry cop and say, “Suck my dick and choke on it?”

In addition to spreading in its raw, unedited form, Frisch’s words have also been transformed, quite literally, into protest music, with amateur producers around the internet creating beats, rhythm sections and remixes to further embolden his already poetic monologue. Check it out:

Musician Matthew Sutton, who produced the above remix of Frisch’s speech, says his ultimate goal was to “take an hour out of my day to make something, push a great message and give people a laugh.” Of all the calls to the Police Commission last Tuesday, Sutton says, “I chose that clip because it aligns with how I’ve been feeling about the police force in L.A. in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. From the fact that the LAPD was on track to get $3 billion in funding this year to the over-policing — which resulted in thousands of protestors being arrested — to the blatantly insensitive and racist comments made by Police Chief Michael Moore, it addressed all of these.”

Music, of course, has always been a valuable voice against the establishment and a powerful tool for social change. “Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state,” Plato correctly stated, more than 2,000 years ago. “When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.”

In America specifically, we’ve seen protest music evolve from slavery-era standards like “Go Down Moses” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” which speak to still-relevant themes of freedom and servitude, to more recent songs like “This is America” or “Killing in the Name,” both of which come out directly against the persistent problem of police brutality, especially against Black Americans.

And as we hear these songs in the backgrounds of our protests — along with Frisch, to the tune of a trap beat, speaking to police in a way so many of us have always dreamt of — we’re seeing the first signs of some real change, just as Plato anticipated: In the days after the Los Angeles Police Commission meeting, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that his police budget will be cut. Just over the weekend, Minneapolis City Council members declared that their police department will be dismantled. Yesterday, Congress, too, released a reform package aimed at curbing excessive force often used by police.

None of this comes close to being enough, but it’s a start. And the more we can make our voices heard — by being involved in our local governments, by speaking up when we witness wrongdoings, and of course, by editing anti-police speeches over sick trap beats — the more pressure we can put on those who do their absolute best to keep their ears closed. 

If all goes well, eventually, the music will be too loud to ignore.