On May 10, the multi-platinum rap group Cypress Hill canceled their May 21 appearance at the Rialto Theatre due to their opposition to SB 1070, the immigration bill recently signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer.
Despite our fervent attempts to persuade the group to use the appearance as an opportunity to speak out against the law, they chose to engage in a boycott. The nonprofit Rialto Theatre Foundation will, as a result, lose thousands of dollars in much-needed revenue—and this may only be the beginning. This cancellation, and others that have already occurred or been threatened, portends ill for the state of Arizona.
Already, there are countless examples of business lost to opposition to 1070—conventions canceled in Tucson and Phoenix, a boycott by the municipalities of Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco, etc.—the losses from which will run into the many millions. Undoubtedly, we've only begun to feel the economic impact in a state that, we hardly need to remind anyone, is wrestling with a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit.
Furthermore, the law is an unfunded mandate that will burden local law enforcement agencies and court systems, whose resources are already stretched to the limit.
The effect SB 1070 will have on our business is far from our only concern about it. Not only is there ample documentation of the bill's racist origins; it is clearly invasive of the civil rights of citizens of all colors, not to mention the human rights of people here illegally. Quite simply, the law creates a climate of fear and discrimination against a group of people who may be perfectly law-abiding and entirely "legal" in regard to their presence in our state. It violates constitutional principles that are the basis of our civil society.
Even conservative leaders like Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have grave concerns about SB 1070. "It's difficult for me to imagine how you're going to enforce this law," Bush told Politico. "It places a significant burden on local law enforcement, and you have civil-liberties issues that are significant as well." Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has publicly stated that that he thinks the law is "unwise, it's stupid, and it's racist. If I were a Hispanic living in this state, I would be humiliated and angered, and from that point of view, I think it's morally wrong." We completely agree.
Since we exercised our right to free speech by announcing our opposition to SB 1070, we've seen quite a lot of reaction, both for and against our position. It has been disturbing to us to hear from ostensible patrons of the Rialto that "politics" has no place in music; or that as business operators, we should just keep our mouths shut; or that people who disagree with us are threatening to never patronize the Rialto again.
At the same time, it's been heartening to hear from those who have appreciated our willingness to go out on a limb against a law that many in Arizona support. But let's set the record straight: We aren't in the habit of taking political positions as an organization, and we recognize that the problem of illegal immigration is a complex one that desperately needs to be addressed by our federal government. However, we feel that SB 1070 and similar efforts are the wrong approach to take.
Let's also be clear that we know Arizona residents have carried a disproportionate share of the burden that has resulted from inaction by the federal government in dealing with problems along the border. The so-called war on drugs has resulted in the rise of unprecedented levels of violence along the border, further exacerbating what has become an almost intractable situation.
The Rialto Theatre Foundation's mission is to be a steward of the historic Rialto Theatre through its restoration, management and programming. We are dedicated to delivering quality contemporary music and other cultural programming in a historic, exciting and comfortable venue. But SB 1070 is compromising our ability to fulfill our commitment to our community. We urge repeal of this misguided and damaging legislation.
Curtis McCrary (an occasional Weekly contributor) is the general manager of the Rialto Theatre. Douglas Biggers is the executive director of the Rialto Theatre Foundation.