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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Know Your Rights’ by Material Support

Under the Patriot Act, U.S. Code Title 18, section 2339A, is an anti-terrorism law criminalizing providing “material support” to terrorists, defining that term with a long list of services and resources. I learned this from reading the Facebook page of the Queens, NY hardcore band Material Support.

After forming in September 2015, the group self-identifies as “Filipina-fronted agit punk…agitated by state repression, government corruption, and patriarchy.”

The members of Material Support met each other hanging out in the New York Filipino punk scene, and were all introduced at a show in 2014 by a member of the band Kadena.

“We hit it off and Miles and Jackie mentioned they wanted to play in a political punk band named after an anti-terrorism law,” the band previously said in an interview with Maximum Rocknroll. “AJ and Simon were down. We jammed, and it sounded alright so we kept playing together.”

“The reason we named our band Material Support, it’s actually named after a counter-terrorism law called Material Support for Terrorism,” the singer, Jackie, explains in a live video of the band playing an ABC No Rio in Exile show in 2016. She suggests the law is used to criminalize people offering support to movements for liberation around the world.

“We wanted to take the name, reclaim it, and really stand for the fact that you can support any movement for liberation by any means necessary despite what the empire says.”

Some of Material Support’s members are lawyers, who have worked with CUNY Clear—work that is evident from seeing them live, where they’ve regularly performed a powerful song called “Know Your Rights,” essentially setting a Know Your Rights training for dealing with police over a post-hardcore bassline and slow-building, ominous drums.

“It’s basically a Know Your Rights training,” Jackie says in the video introducing the song. “These are things we should know when we are fighting against the oppressive U.S. imperialist state. When we’re fighting against cops. When we’re fighting against this pipeline. The least we can do when we’re fighting back is know what our rights are.”

The song’s lyrics include: “If you have to talk to the cops / be firm and assertive / Am I being detained? / Am I free to go? / I do not consent to this search … Do you have a warrant? Slide it under the door. I choose to remain silent. I want to speak to my lawyer!”

Material Support’s debut record, the four-song Balikbayan Box Demo, was released last summer via the Filipino-American label Aklasan Records.

The name of the demo appears on the second track, “Hands Off!” an urgent protest anthem. “Hands off! Hands off! hands off our balikbayan box!” they sing on the chorus.

The band told The Spark Mag, an online publication covering political music, that Balikbayan roughly translates to “returning home” and refers to a traditional way that Filipino migrant workers support their families, by filling up a big box of supplies and sending it in the mail.

As explained in the Spark Mag feature, the song references a 2015 “planting bullets” scheme, where airport workers would open the boxes, steal contents and/or plant bullets and then threaten passengers with arrest unless they paid them off.

Some of the other lyrics in the song, which are sung in Tagalog, translate to:  “What kind of maltreatment is that / towards the people you call modern heroes? You’re full on remittance tax / while we work hungry.”

Listen to Material Support’s “Know Your Rights” by clicking the video player at the top of the post or go to the Bandcamp page for music from the group.


Are you an independent artist who has written and/or produced a protest song that you would like featured? Or do you have a favorite protest song? Submit a song to protestmusic@Shadowproof.com

Liz Pelly

Liz Pelly