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Hollywood studios are beginning to publicly denounce Georgia’s newly passed voting law.
ViacomCBS is the first major entertainment industry corporation to clearly condemn the restrictive bill, which President Joe Biden has called it “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” The company released a statement on Twitter on Thursday morning.
“We unequivocally believe in the importance of all Americans having an equal right to vote and oppose the recent Georgia voting rights law or any effort that impedes the ability to exercise this vital constitutional right,” stated ViacomCBS.
“Increasing voter access and civic engagement is one of ViacomCBS’ core social impact pillars and we will continue to educate the public on the importance of an open and fair voting system through our programming and extensive partnerships with grassroots organizations that promote and increase participation in elections,” read the ViacomCBS statement.
Amazon’s Jay Carney posted a statement on Twitter later in the day on Thursday. “It has been fifty-six years since the Voting Rights Act became law, yet efforts to disenfranchise Black people and other minorities continue to this day. The ability to vote is one of the most prized fundamental rights in our American democracy, and Amazon supports policies that protect and expand those rights,” he wrote, pointing to Virginia, home to the company’s second headquarters, as a model for how other states when it comes to voters’ rights. “We oppose efforts in other states aimed at restricting the ability of Americans to vote, and we call on those states to follow Virginia’s leadership by expanding voter protection instead.”
A WarnerMedia spokesperson says that parent company AT&T’s statement speaks for them: “AT&T believes our right to vote is among the most sacrosanct we enjoy, and that free enterprise and companies like ours thrive where elections are open and secure. Consistent with that belief, we are working with other companies that are members of the Georgia Chamber and Metro-Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, as those organizations support policies that promote accessible and secure voting while also upholding election integrity and transparency.”
On Friday, the Writers Guild sent a statement out to its members about the bill. “We should not be naïve: Georgia politics, for many years, have been a battleground in the struggle to overcome the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and structural racism,” read the email. “This week Georgia took a giant leap backwards in that struggle.” The WGA went on to say that depriving one person of the ability to vote deprives everyone of a true, representative democracy: “The voter suppression bill rushed through the Georgia legislature and hurriedly signed by the Governor does violence to these basic principles of democracy, and it cannot stand.”
The guild didn’t explicitly address the matter of boycotting but seemed to allude to it. “The WGA and its members do not decide whether film and TV projects are produced in Georgia. But we do have members who live and work in the state – many of whom are BIPOC and who are deeply troubled by the new law and the damage it does to them and to their state,” the statement continued. “Together we stand in opposition to all efforts to suppress the vote, including this regressive new law. If Georgia wants to benefit from the thousands of good jobs our industry brings to the state, it cannot attack the democratic rights of its own people.”
On Monday, SAG-AFTRA weighed in. “SAG-AFTRA opposes any effort to suppress the constitutional rights of Americans, including our members,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and national executive director David White in a statement. “It is clear that there is plenty of work to do to make our communities more fair, equitable, and safe. This includes protecting the sacred right to vote. The more voices and perspectives we see at the ballot box, the stronger our democracy and our people will be. We encourage SAG-AFTRA members everywhere to make themselves heard, stand up against injustices, and support laws designed to level the playing field.”
None of the companies or organizations, however, seem to be calling for an outright boycott of the state, which Ford v Ferrari filmmaker James Mangold and Star Wars actor Mark Hamill have done. Whether companies should pull business from Georgia remains a subject of much debate. Stacey Abrams made her stance clear in a new video posted to Twitter: “To our friends across the country, please do not boycott us.”
There are better ways to protest the law, she explained. “We know from past recent elections in Georgia that the way to overcome voter suppression is to vote. We must hold Republicans accountable by voting them out,” she said. “I understand the passion of those calling for boycotts of Georgia following the passage of SB 202. Boycotts have been an important tool throughout our history to achieve social change. But here’s the thing: Black, Latino, AAPI and Native American voters whose votes are the most suppressed under SB 202 are also the most likely to be hurt by potential boycotts of Georgia.”
In addition, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice King wrote on Twitter: “Please stop the #BoycottGeorgia talk. That would hurt middle class workers and people grappling with poverty. And it would increase the harm of both racism and classism.”
Tyler Perry, who runs a massive studio in Atlanta, shared his thoughts Tuesday. “As a Georgia resident and business owner I’ve been here a few times with the anti-abortion bill and the LGBTQ discrimination bill. They all sent a shockwave through Georgia and the nation but none of them managed to succeed,” he said in a statement.
“I’m resting my hope in the DOJ taking a hard look at this unconstitutional voter suppression law that harkens to the Jim Crow era,” he continued. As for calls to pull business from the state, he offered this: “As some consider boycotting, please remember that we did turn Georgia blue and there is a gubernatorial race on the horizon — that’s the beauty of a democracy.”
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