Protesters gathered outside The Fillmore Silver Spring on Monday with a message for Mexican rock group Molotov and its fans: words matter.
Passing out cards, holding signs and circulating a petition, a group of about eight people from Equality Maryland, Casa Ruby and the Latino GLBT History Project formed an informational picket to educate concertgoers on the harm they say is caused by the lyrics of Molotov.
The band’s booking at the county-owned venue met with strong opposition over its 1997 song “Puto” that many claim has anti-gay lyrics.
In July, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) asked tenant Live Nation to cancel Monday’s performance, saying the song verged on “hate speech.”
Molotov performed as planned.
As concertgoers filed into the venue, Stephanie Steele, general manager of The Fillmore Silver Spring, said the concert was going to be very well attended.
Monday was Molotov’s first performance at The Fillmore Silver Spring and also the first protest staged outside the venue, Steele said.
While the controversy stems from band’s lyrics, not everyone agrees that the words are a slur against the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community.
Hugo Sanchez, a native of Mexico who came to the concert from Philadelphia, said the song’s title means “rat” — as in someone who rats out another — and that as he interprets it, does not attack gays.
The song uses slang that has many different meanings, he said, also noting that it was written 16 years ago when it likely held different meaning.
In a July statement emailed by band contact Julio Arellano, Molotov expressed respect and gratitude for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
In the statement, the band said the song was never meant to disrespect the gay community.
“We as a band and as individuals express our respect and support to the gay community. We celebrate the freedom of expression, the freedom of choice and the freedom to love whoever you want. As long as we stay playing together, the message from our music will always be positive and committed to our fans,” the statement read.
Ruby Corado, founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, was among those protesting Monday. Corado said the word is derogatory no matter how it is used.
“It’s a hateful word,” she said. “It is never used positively.”
Despite those who say that the song is being misinterpreted, even outside the venue, the word was being used.
One man called out the word as he passed Travis Ballie, a protester from Silver Spring.
“I’m used to it,” said Ballie, a member of the Montgomery County Young Democrats.
Ballie might have a thick skin, but he said he worries about the person who is afraid to come out or faces violence because of words like those in Molotov’s song.
“That type of language has an impact on people,” Ballie said. “I feel less safe in Silver Spring with this band playing.”
Corado said she also heard the word directed at her as she greeted concertgoers and offered them a handout Monday.
And it is the same word the hate crime victims she works with hear, she said. Casa Ruby is a multicultural center and safe space serving the Latino LGBT communities of any race, color or economic background in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, according to its website.