SXSW not pulling out of Austin despite pressure from U.S. Senators

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 11: President of the United States Barack Obama speaks during the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Long Center on March 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for SXSW)

Two United States senators have called on SXSW co-founder Roland Swenson to move the festival out of Texas in response to the passage of SB4.

Senators Robert Menendez and Catherine Cortez Mastro sent their letter to Swenson yesterday.  They bring up a valid point with Texas being the home to a large festival that combines film, music, technology, etc.

The Senators write:

Throughout its 31 years, SXSW has been a beacon of consistency, standing with artists and participants regarding equality, tolerance, and safety during events.  SB4, however, would not allow SXSW to be a safe place for immigrants and Americans alike to visit, participate, and enjoy; the culture and safety of the event would be greatly diminished if your attendants are faced with the humiliation and harassment that this new law would inflict.

According to a report in NBC News, Swenson has declined to move the festival but has expressed his support for those who oppose the law.  Swenson told NBC that they won’t move the festival.

In an emailed statement, Swenson said SXSW wasn’t going to be moving, even though “we agree with the Senators that the law stands diametrically opposed to the spirit of SXSW and respect their call to action.”

But he said, “for us this is not a solution. Austin is our home and an integral part of who we are. We will stay here and continue to make our event inclusive while fighting for the rights of all.”

What SB4 does is prevent cities in Texas from becoming sanctuary cities.  The city of Austin is a fairly liberal city and there’s no mistaking that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is targeting the city.  Given how much the 2016 festival brought in, it will be interesting to see what happens in 2018 with the fallout from anti-immigrant and anti-trans laws.

Given Swenson’s above statement, I’m curious as to how SXSW will respond to the bathroom bills and what that might mean for trans and non-binary people who choose to attend SXSW.  Personally, I’m boycotting any states with bathroom bills in effect as far as laws are concerned.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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