Politics

Katherine Clark’s Emotional Investment in SXSW

Clark will participate in SXSW's "To Catch a Troll." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass., is set to speak at South by Southwest on Saturday on its Interactive Conference's “To Catch a Troll” panel, and she's bringing a personal story to it.  

Earlier this year, an anonymous call went out to police officers that an active shooter was in Clark’s home. She, her husband and their two children were home the night of Jan. 31.  

The police responded quickly to the call. Police cruisers blocked off her street and surrounded her home with long guns. The call turned out to be a hoax. A hoax like this, which provokes an armed police response, is known as “swatting” because a S.W.A.T. team is often involved. Clark has been an advocate against online abuses and the fact that online threats largely target women. “No mother should have to answer the door to the police in the middle of the night and fear for her family’s safety simply because an anonymous person disagrees with her,” Clark said in a statement. One of her bills would make “swatting” a federal crime.  

In October 2015, SXSW canceled the anti-harassment panel it usually puts on. Clark wrote a letter urging the group to reinstate it, and after pressure from sponsors as well, it did. The Massachusetts Democrat plans to discuss her efforts in Washington and what she’s learned from her experience, other victims, the FBI and law enforcement on Saturday.  

Clark is but one member of the political class heading SXWS. On Friday, President Barack Obama will be part of a keynote conversation and on Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama will be the opening keynote at SXSW Music. This year is the first time a sitting president and first lady have participated in SXSW, which was established 30 years go.  

SXSW takes place in Austin, Texas. Other lawmakers participating are Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Mark Warner, D-Va., as well as Reps. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Michael McCaul, R-Texas, Mimi Walters, R-Calif., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., Susan W. Brooks, R-Ind., Randy Hultgreen, R-Ill., and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.  

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