Arizona musicians have formed a new organization that hopes to convince touring acts considering a boycott of Arizona over SB 1070—the controversial new immigration law that's set to take effect at the end of the month—to instead come and help fight the law.
The group, Artists for Action, includes Calexico's Joey Burns and John Convertino, and the Sand Rubies' David Slutes.
"The intent is to reach out to local, national and international artists and invite them to come here to Arizona to perform, educate and inspire audiences," Burns says. "Now more than ever, we need everyone's help."
The group hopes to reach out to musicians who have joined the Sound Strike, a group formed by Zack de la Rocha, lead singer of Rage Against the Machine.
More than two dozen acts have said they will join the Sound Strike boycott, including Kanye West, Conor Oberst, Nine Inch Nails, Ry Cooder, My Morning Jacket and Steve Earle.
"You can't look at SB 1070 in isolation," says de la Rocha in a video on the Sound Strike website. "It's part of an entire state's campaign to humiliate and criminalize an entire population."
Burns says he understands the concerns of his fellow musicians, but he hopes that some may reconsider coming to Arizona if given a chance to rally fans to fight the law.
"We want to work together with Sound Strike," Burns says. "Whenever there's an artistic or cultural boycott, it's important to back that up by showing your presence and doing something. The intent is to go to fans inside of Arizona and inspire them to vote. If people haven't registered to vote, now is the time to do it."
To that end, Artists for Action will be setting up voter-registration tables at shows, including a performance by the Swell Season this Saturday, July 17, at downtown's Rialto Theatre.
Artists for Action is also planning a major concert in the Phoenix area later this summer. Slutes, who books bands at downtown's Hotel Congress, says that one day of this year's HoCo Fest in September will focus on efforts against SB 1070.
"What Arizona needs now is support," said Jimmy Adkins, of Phoenix-based Jimmy Eat World, in a statement supporting Artists for Action. "I have the utmost respect for musicians, artists and small-business owners who are killing themselves to make something on their own terms. I hope Artists for Action can be the bridge to help inform interested locals—and to help bring like-minded progressive voices back to Arizona."
Artists for Action found a key ally last week: Congressman Raúl Grijalva, who first called for a boycott of Arizona after SB 1070 was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in April.
"It's important to have a progressive presence in this fight against SB 1070," Grijalva said at a press conference. "Artists have always been at the forefront of change. They need a platform and a venue to do that. Artists for Action provides that. Artists across the country can come here and help us change the course of this state though voter registration, through education and through mobilization."
Grijalva says he still supports "economic sanctions" against Arizona in response to SB 1070, but he doesn't want a boycott to go on "any longer than necessary."
Last week, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, this year's Democratic nominee for governor, called on Grijalva to lift his call for a boycott.
"You have told the media that you would like to change minds here in Arizona through a boycott," Goddard wrote in a letter to Grijalva. "From what I have seen, the governor and the Legislature don't seem to care about Arizona's economic lifeblood. A boycott would only hurt Arizona. I ask you to join with me in calling on businesses across America to give Arizona a chance, and help us to rebuild our economy instead of engaging in hurtful boycotts."
Grijalva hinted that he'd lift his call for a boycott if federal courts grant an injunction against SB 1070.
"I think the judicial avenue is the way to go," Grijalva said. "I don't think I have the power to say 'Do it' or 'Don't do it.' But certainly for myself, once (the court case) is settled, there's a relief point: Everyone can take a deep breath, and then I think it becomes pointless to talk about economic sanctions when there is no motivation for that sanction."