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25 Years Ago: Sinead O’Connor’s Records Get Steamrolled

Daniel Pierce Wright, Getty Images / Allan Tannenbaum
Daniel Pierce Wright, Getty Images / Allan Tannenbaum

As far as the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations was concerned, their Oct. 21, 1992, event was a twofer. They were both raising money for charity and making a statement condemning Sinead O’Connor‘s controversial appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live three weeks earlier

After O’Connor tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II, protesting the Catholic church’s abuse of children, the organization invited the public to send in their O’Connor cassettes, CDs and records, each for a $10 donation to charity. Then, having amassed a collection of more than 200 pieces of media bearing the Irish singer-songwriter’s name, the organization placed them in the street in front of 1290 Sixth Avenue in New York — the U.S. headquarters of O’Connor’s record label, Chrysalis Records.

With a crowd of 100 or so spectators gathered around, and transportation mogul and chairman of the NECO board William Fugazy and NECO President Arnold Burns at the helm — donning hardhats that featured a caricature of O’Connor with a red line through it — a 30-ton steamroller demolished the pieces of plastic and vinyl.

“Under our system of government Sinead O’Connor has every right to do what she did, but we also have the right to express ourselves,” Burns told the crowd. “O’Connor should be held to the same standards as everyone else. This celebrity has got to act decently.”

“I think she should apologize to all the ethnic communities around the world,” added Fugazi, whose organization gave out Golden Pit awards for what they considered to be the worst examples of ethnic insults and stereotyping in popular culture. “Especially all the Catholics.”

But their plan to send O’Connor the broken bits of her albums failed when she couldn’t be located. “How are they going to get it to her? I don’t even know where she is,” her spokesperson at the time, Elaine Shock, commented. “It’s not like Santa Claus where you can address him in care of the North Pole. It can’t be ‘Sinead O’Connor, Europe.'” She added the event was “like burning books. It doesn’t hurt the author.”

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