Remember When: Rage Against the Machine Disrupts Wall Street

Rage Against the Machine demonstrated the true power of rock and roll when they disrupted Wall Street in 2000 with the video shoot for “Sleep Now in the Fire.” The song’s devilish lyrics that reference Agent Orange, Hiroshima, and slavery pull no punches as the band rages, So raise your fists / And march around / Don’t dare take what you need / I’ll jail and bury those committed. The lyrics set the tone for the video that caused a raucous on Wall Street in New York City.

Videos by American Songwriter

It all started when then-mayor Rudy Guiliani allegedly declared on January 25 that Rage Against the Machine, “Shall not play on Wall Street.” The next day, the band set up shop on the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street to shoot the video for “Sleep Now.” Directed by controversial filmmaker Michael Moore, the crew was granted permission from city officials to film the video on the steps outside of the historic building since weekday shoots were barred on Wall Street. However, Moore did not have a sound permit or permission to shoot on the public sidewalk or street— but he didn’t let that stop him.

[RELATED: Remember When Rage Against the Machine Gave a Fiery Protest at Woodstock ’99?]

“’This is what we’re going to do today. We’ve got a permit to play on the federal steps. We do not have a permit to play on the city streets, but we’re going to be up on the federal steps. But don’t stop playing, no matter what happens,'” Rage guitarist Tom Morello recalled to Yahoo! in 2020 on what Moore instructed them to do on the day of the shoot.

True to his word, when Moore instructed the band to move to the sidewalk, an angry police officer came over urging them to get back on the steps. When the band refused, the officer unplugged the guitars and put Moore in handcuffs. “Mike turns over his shoulder and delivers his second directorial edict of the afternoon, which is: ‘Take the New York Stock Exchange!'” Morello explained. “That was not in any video treatment. So we rush over there. I go through the door, and there’s a frumpy dude and a security guy in a jacket. And I’m like, ‘Hey, I’m here to take the New York Stock Exchange. Is that a right or a left?’ And he hits the panic button and the riot police come and the riot doors slam shut.”

The band, along with hundreds of people who worked on Wall Street, made it inside part of the Stock Exchange building before the doors came down. “The band shut down the New York Stock Exchange, which was the first time that that happened in its 200-year history, in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon,” Morello said. “We decided to shoot this video in the belly of the beast,” added Moore at the time. “And for a few minutes, Rage Against the Machine was able to shut down American capitalism — an act that I am sure tens of thousands of downsized citizens would cheer.”

Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns

Leave a Reply

Blake Shelton, Lainey Wilson Appear on Craig Morgan’s New EP

Tory Lanez Sends Message to Fans from Prison