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DC Punk Band Priests Slams Deportation Clause in SXSW Contract

Priests. Photograph by Audrey Melton.

The DC punk band Priests contributed to an open letter to SXSW that slams the music festival for a contract clause that allows it to contact immigration authorities. In an effort to stop nonsanctioned performances, the contract states that if the festival finds out an international artist is playing a show that’s not part of the festival proper, it reserves the right to notify US authorities. The clause is not new, but after Felix Walworth of the Brooklyn group Told Slant tweeted about it Thursday, the reaction was intense.

“We are white US citizens using that privilege to engage with you, sxsw, to reconsider colluding w/ ICE and thus, the Trump’s regime racist agenda,” Priests, known for songs such as “Nothing Feels Natural,” wrote in the letter. “Please change your language and actively support and protect immigrant and non-white artists.”

Victoria Ruiz of the band Downtown Boys began organizing the letter, which was signed by 35 bands, record labels, and artists including PWR BTTM, Sheer Mag, Screaming Females, and Immortal Technique.

SXSW co-founder and CEO Roland Swenson responded to the situation late Thursday, saying “the language that was published seems strong.”

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Julie Strupp is an editorial fellow. Before Washingtonian, she did francophone video, radio, and photography projects addressing gender-based violence in Togo, West Africa with Peace Corps. She worked at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and AllAfrica and has contributed to Mic, Center for Public Integrity, DCist, and more. Now a proud Petworth-dweller, she’s also a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who loves judo, biking, art, and keeping the powerful accountable.