The Activist Files

The Activist Files is a podcast by the Center for Constitutional Rights where we feature the stories of people on the front lines fighting for justice, including activists, lawyers, and artists. We interview movement partners, our clients, and people using storytelling to create change, and look to highlight lesser known aspects of the work. Listen to our latest episode here, or subscribe through your iPhone podcast app, or directly on iTunes or Spotify!

September 13, 2019

On the 18th episode of The Activist Files, Jen Nessel talks with Sarah Blust and Bronte Walker of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra about the activist street band’s mission and the ways it brings joy to resistance. Sarah is a co-founder of the project and plays the bass drum. Bronte plays the trumpet. With dozens of active members in the NYC-based band at any time, the RMO exists “in order to serve the efforts of progressive and radical groups and causes, including: feminism and women’s rights, immigrant rights, queer rights, labor, the environment, peace, community self-determination, and racial, social, and economic justice.” Through their music, they “strive to bring joy and inspiration to these communities and to bring new people into radical causes.” To do that, they play at marches, demonstrations, picket lines, and every kind of political event. Sarah and Bronte discuss challenges they’ve had with the NYPD, the changing protest landscape, and the band’s shared love of Janelle Monae. 

This episode highlights the important ways art can uplift social movements—Sarah and Bronte encourage everyone to go out and start a marching band!

The Rude Mechanical Orchestra –

HONK! – Festival of Activist Street Bands -

Bread & Puppet –

Brass Liberation Orchestra – 

Picture the Homeless –


Jen Nessel, Sarah Blust, Bronte Walker

Podcast Transcript PDF