Senators Menendez and Cortez Masto Ask SXSW to Boycott Texas Because of SB4

Jun 7, 2017
4:32 PM

A letter from Democratic senators Bob Menendez (NJ) and Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) is asking the CEO of SXSW to boycott Texas because of the state’s controversial Senate Bill 4 law. The June 6 letter was shared on Menendez’s official page. It is addressed to Roland Swenson, SXSW’s creator, founder and CEO. Here is the full letter:

NBC News reported that Swenson has already replied to the letter:

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.”

Meanwhile, Swenson’s position is one echoed by Austin mayor Steve Adler, who responded as well to the boycott request. Here is an excerpt:

To be sure, the City of Austin stands opposed to SB4. Last week we filed a lawsuit to prevent what we consider an unjust and unconstitutional law from going into effect, and we on the City Council do this, I should point out, at some peril. Those who call for SXSW to leave Austin are correct to focus on the ways this law could be used to discriminate against our Hispanic residents and visitors. What they do not note is that the law allows for the removal from office those local officials who endorse a different policy, which I am absolutely doing. I applaud every voice that rises in opposition to this ill-conceived law and do so with full awareness of the possible consequences.

And while I join these voices in opposition to the Governor’s anti-immigration law, I must strongly oppose the proposed any means of protest that punishes Austin for the sins of the legislature. Simply put, it makes no sense and is counter-productive. Would you protest censorship under the Soviet Union by boycotting the books of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? Would you protest the Berlin Wall by boycotting the Berlin Air Lift? Nothing will play into the hands of those whom we oppose more than boycotting Austin, the city they call the People’s Republic of Austin and that we call home.

There are few greater expressions of Austin’s spirit and soul than SXSW which has become the world’s fair of the future. Every year, musicians, filmmakers, innovators, and storytellers migrate to Austin to share their creations and learn from each other in a perfect demonstration of who we are. In Austin, we welcome refugees, immigrants, people of all persuasions, religions, ethnicities, and orientations – even Senators from New Jersey and Nevada. There is no greater way to protest what is happening in Texas than to be yourself in Austin. Do not call on SXSW to leave Austin. Come, find any excuse to visit Austin, and revel in the daily protest of this legislative oppression that some call weird… Actually, we call it weird, too, but we like it that way.

If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a mayor who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his City – Victory or Death.