NEW YORK — Long Island lawmakers are determined to stop Pink Floyd frontman and BDS activist Roger Waters from performing at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum this September.
“We are still trying to sever the contract,” said Assistant County Executive Ed Ward. Outgoing Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who was recently indicted on federal corruption charges, has been urged to ban the artist from performing.
According to local legislators and Nassau County Attorney Carnell T. Foskey, because the coliseum is county-owned, the concert would violate local law 3-2016, which prohibits the county from doing business with any company participating in the economic boycott of Israel. This is the first time the law is being tested.
The controversy began when the Republican legislator Howard J. Kopel, who represents a large Jewish population, asked Foskey to investigate whether the concert was in compliance with the law, which was passed in May of 2016.
“Beyond the legality of this, this person [Waters] is a slap in the face to the entire community. When we passed the law we were expressing the opinion of the 1.4 million constituents in the county,” Kopel said.
After reviewing the matter Foskey said the concert would violate the law.
“By enabling Mr. Waters to perform, NEC has given Mr. Waters a forum or platform to express his ideology,” stated a letter Foskey sent on July 11 to the Nassau Events Center, NEC, which is responsible for scheduling events.
The NEC responded with a letter saying that the Waters concert is “protected speech.”
“We neither evaluate nor comment on the political artists who perform at our venue. It is our obligation and commitment to be fully compliant with our lease and applicable laws, and we are confident that we are adhering to both. We have responded to the Nassau County Attorney on this matter,” wrote the NEC.
Moreover, the NEC argued that county law doesn’t apply to sub contractors, which is how they described Waters.
“We obviously disagree with them,” Ward said, adding that Foskey is again reviewing the matter and is expected to make a decision within the next several days, as the concert is just two months away.
At a press conference Thursday, Kevan Abrahams, Democratic Minority Leader in Nassau County, said Waters wasn’t welcome in Nassau County and assailed the NEC for a lack of leadership. Additionally, Bruce Blakeman, a town councilman from Hempstead, wrote Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking that Waters’ visa be revoked.
For his part, Waters told the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel that he expects to perform. In a Facebook Live chat he said an artist’s right to free speech should not be impinged upon because of his views.
Still, Kopel, an Orthodox Jew, said he sees the issue as a moral one.
“He’s a very popular artist but he’s clearly an anti-Semite. As [French president] Macron just pointed out, anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. It’s about not doing something just because you can, and I hope they [the county] don’t give in to chase of the almighty dollar. I’d love to see the concert fail,” said Kopel.