If it can’t be done safely, should it be done at all?
When one person overdosed at Electric Daisy Carnival, the City of Los Angeles shut the entire festival down, for good, and brought criminal charges against the organizers. Now, with 2 dead, 5 critically injured and potentially dying, and 18 suffering from a range of injuries, SXSW organizers are adamantly pushing forward to continue the festival as scheduled. “Despite all of our preparations for dealing with a major incident during SXSW, nothing could really prepare us for how this feels,” SXSW organizers offered in a statement to Digital Music News early this morning.
“As much as we would like to just go home and spend time absorbing the shock of this horrific event, we feel our best use is to continue to operate today. All of the SXSW staff and volunteers reported for their regular duties this morning and will continue working today on the event.”
This isn’t the first tragedy at SXSW, though it is the most serious. Last year, there was a shooting at SXSW, incidentally on the exact same block (Red River) as Wednesday evening’s mass-manslaughter. The year before that, violent clashes involving Austin police and near-riotous fans raised serious safety concerns. Other altercations peppered the event, with police officers repeatedly forced to restrain belligerent attendees (often on horseback).
All of which raises the question of just how vulnerable SXSW is to a similar tragedy, in 2014 or in the future, especially without massive and immediate changes.
According to an estimate published in 2012, SXSW rakes in nearly $200 million a year in revenues for the City of Austin.