Hip-hop enthusiasts stage peaceful protest

Cold autumn showers didn't deter more than 100 people from gathering downtown for more than two hours yesterday for a peaceful rally to mobilize support for local hip-hop culture.

The afternoon rally, held in response to Mayor Paul Schell blaming hip-hop for a shooting in Pioneer Square last weekend, was a call for unification to the many members of Seattle's hip-hop scene.

"I'm not here to defend hip-hop. It speaks for itself," said rally organizer Jonathan Moore of Jasiri Media Group, also known as rapper Wordsayer from the group Source of Labor. "This is not about seeking any justification or to portray ourselves as being good or civilized. We already are those things."

Rally organizers wanted to bring members of the community together to begin an atmosphere of "proaction, not reaction," said Kutfather, a DJ who is one of the elders of the local scene. He stressed the need to reach out to Schell and other members of the "powers that be" to foster a better awareness of hip-hop culture.

"They forget that now we're old enough to be on a professional level with them. There are hip-hoppers everywhere you work. The mayor don't even know that there was probably a hip-hopper in the mailroom saying, `Man, I could have told you, Schell,' " Kutfather said. "Retracting statements and clarifying is a start. But it's about face-to-face interaction, bottom line."

What began as a gathering of about 22 people in Westlake Park soon swelled to nearly 150.

The multiracial, mostly male crowd consisted of hip-hop performers, producers, club promoters and fans, as well as members from the rave and punk communities. People learned about the rally - organized by members of Darkside Productions, Jasiri Media Group, L Brothers Entertainment and Pak Pros - through word of mouth and on hip-hop, rave and punk-scene Web sites.

As people greeted one another and some formed circles to freestyle rap with one another, the rally looked more like an outdoor mixer than a protest. That was the organizers' goal.

Instead of perpetuating the anger that boiled after Schell's statements in the press, Kutfather, Wordsayer and other organizers wanted the gathering to forge connections between artists and open a forum for discussion and a relationship with local government.

Said Erika Moore, also known as as MC Kylea from Beyond Reality, to the crowd: "I'm glad that we're all here together, but let's do something with our time of being here . . . We have to start building."