Secret Service Investigates High School Talent Show
November 15, 2004
The Secret Service paid a visit to Boulder High School in Colorado on November 11. It was investigating a student band that was going to play at the school's annual talent show the next day.
The band is called "Coalition of the Willing," though the members first called themselves the "Tally-band."
The song they were rehearsing was an old Bob Dylan tune called "Masters of War." The last stanza includes the lines: "I hope that you die and your death will come soon. I'll follow your casket in the pale afternoon."
According to the Daily Camera of Boulder, some students alleged that at one of the rehearsals, the band changed the language to, "George Bush, I hope that you die. . . ." That allegation reached a talk radio show in Boulder, which spread it far and wide.
Lead singer Allysse Wojtanek-Watson adamantly denies that anyone mentioned Bush's name on stage. "The only singer who had a mic was me, and I never said anything like that in the slightest," she tells The Progressive. "I never did it in rehearsal, I never did it in band practice, and I never did it at the performance. I've never threatened the President in my life."
The school principal, Ron Cabrera, backs her up. The accusation was "unfounded and untrue," he told AP.
Nevertheless, the Secret Service came to campus and "questioned him for 20 minutes and took a copy of the group's song lyrics," the AP reported. The Secret Service also questioned a teacher who was advising the group.
November 11 was an unusual day for Wojtanek-Watson.
"I was walking through the halls," she says, "and someone yells, 'You communist.' Another person said my name was on the radio. There were news crews all over the place. And then someone told me the Secret Service was looking for me."
She couldn't believe it.
"I was extremely stunned," she says. "I'm just a 16-year-old high school student. How could anyone come looking for us?"
Lon Garner of the Secret Service confirmed to the Daily Camera that agents had visited the school and that the investigation was ongoing.
"We are very sensitive to the First Amendment rights, but we still have to investigate allegations of threats, regardless," he told the paper.
Lorie Lewis, a spokesperson for the Secret Service in Washington, D.C., was aware of the investigation and told The Progressive that the agency "investigates every potential threat to its resolution."
The Secret Service did not attend the talent show on November 12, according to the Daily Camera.
The talent show itself, and the singing of the Dylan song, went off without incident, the paper reported.
"It's all really ridiculous," Wojtanek-Watson tells The Progressive. "It was a huge overreaction. I can't see what all the hub-bub was about."
Still, Wojtanek-Watson says she's feeling a little paranoid now. "I've seen a Homeland Security van going up and down the street outside my house and trailing us," she says.