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Moechella isn’t going anywhere. Although organizers of the free go-go music protests pulled their trademark application on July 29, two weeks after City Paper reported that California’s Coachella arts and music festival was fighting it, the founder, Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson, confirms: “I’m not going to stop using the name. It’s a protest.”
In response to community fears that losing the trademark means an end to Moechella and the movement, Johnson assures City Paper that this isn’t the end. “If anything it’s bigger than ever,” he says.
Moechella began as a nightly musical protest in the spring of 2019, after residents of a new luxury apartment building complained about the go-go music played outside Shaw’s MetroPCS store. Johnson organized three “Long Live GoGo” protests at the intersection of 14th and U streets NW, which grew in size, eventually taking on the community-assigned name of Moechella. Last year, he filed to trademark the name, in an effort to cement the narrative behind “Moechella:” “moe” slang for friend, combined with a play on the California festival, has become a symbol of Black community, culture, and resilience in D.C. It was never about making money, he says.
Despite the grassroots cause and the more than 2,000 miles between D.C. and Coachella’s festival grounds (named after California’s Coachella Valley), the behemoth festival challenged Johnson’s application. In a June 2022 filing from Coachella Music Festival LLC, attorneys argued that Coachella has exclusive rights to both “Coachella” and “Chella,” and that Johnson’s use of “Moechella” would “create the false association” between the two events.
Though the trademark battle has ended for now, Johnson says Coachella is threatening to sue him in federal court for continuing to use the name.
“It’s ridiculous that they’re really looking to stop us from using a name that means so much to the culture before they even actually look deeper into what was going on behind Moechella you know?” He pauses. “A multi-million dollar festival, probably earned billions over the years, how you all worried about a free advocacy space, a free protest?”
Even without the trademark, Johnson says the musical protests will continue to happen and live under the Moechella moniker. A sign of the demonstration’s growth is the Moe World Order, which will promote Johnson and company’s Moe Unity Movement that calls for greater unity in the community. On Aug. 26, Moe World Order will come to life at Howard Theatre, featuring performances from TCB, Reaction, Yaddiya, and more.
“It’s the culture, the bands versus everyone,” Johnson says. “That’s what the Moe World Order is. I don’t want people to get discouraged by this. This is not changing any of our mission or our purpose or any of our movement at all.”