Members of Seattle’s Vietnamese American community and allies gathered on Capitol Hill Friday night to protest the evening’s show at Neumos.
It wasn’t the music that was at issue. It was the headlining band’s name: Viet Cong.
The all-white Canadian post-punk outfit formed in Calgary in 2012, and say they chose the name without knowing much about the history that surrounded it.
Vy Nguyen, who helped organize the protest, explained what the name means to her:
“Both sides of my family were refugees. My grandfather was a believer in freedom, that’s why he uprooted his family from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. He got picked up by the Viet Cong and put into re-education camps. He was beaten and starved for years. Because of the dangers they had to face, they’re still traumatized. They can’t talk about this. I grew up knowing that the Viet Cong were responsible for some of the most horrible things an entire people experienced. Not just Vietnamese but also American veterans. When a group of Canadian kids appropriate the name without respecting the history or even acknowledging it, that makes me mad. When you see your family hurt, when you see your community hurt, you’re going to say something.”
About 40 protestors gathered outside Seattle Central College and then marched to the venue, where they chanted, “Stop this band, stop this show, Viet Cong has got to go.”
“I thought about my parents a lot. About how the experience of living in Vietnam and being refugees was very traumatizing for them, to the point where I don’t even know my full history because they can’t bare to speak about it,” said Tony Vo, another protest organizer. “I’m doing this because of them. I want to make a statement that the Vietnamese community is strong and united and people need to respect our cultures. We’re part of the social fabric of Seattle.”
The band has indicated their intention to change the name after the conclusion of their tour, which continues into December. But that’s not soon enough for yesterday’s demonstrators.
“Part of the protest asks Neumos to stand in solidarity with the Vietnamese community, to have inclusive and welcoming spaces for everyone,” Nguyen said. “Asian Americans are part of the fastest growing demographics in this area. If they want our money, they have to respect us too.”
According to KING 5, the band’s drummer Mike Wallace eventually came out of the venue and addressed the crowd, telling them they wouldn’t sell merchandise bearing the name or be announced using it, but that they needed time to come up with a new name.
The band eventually did take the stage, following an opening act called “Grave Babies.”