Antiwar musicians boycott SXSW festival

Boris and Natasha are after her
Not playing Austin this time, especially with a US Army sponsorship. “A music festival should not include war profiteers,” she said. Graphic from her Facebook page.
“That the organizers of SXSW have taken the decision to mix the arts with the military and weapons contractors is unforgivable,” said one band from Northern Ireland.

100+ musical acts boycott SXSW over
US Army, defense contractor ties

by Julia Conley — Common Dreams

More than 100 musical acts have pulled out of the music and cultural festival South by Southwest in protest of the event’s close ties to the US Army and numerous defense contractors which have displayed exhibits at the week-long gathering, with one hip hop trio from Northern Ireland saying they would face a “significant financial impact” due to the decision.

The financial loss, said the Belfast-based band Kneecap, “isn’t an iota of hardship when compared with the [unimaginable] suffering being inflicted every minute of every day on the people of Gaza.”

The Austin For Palestine Coalition (AFPC) has been campaigning in the Texas state capital for several weeks to push bands and speakers to boycott the festival, which is commonly known as SXSW and has been based in Austin since 1987.

Out of at least 105 performers that had announced they are boycotting this year’s event as of Wednesday, 60 were from the United Kingdom. All 12 Irish bands that had been scheduled to participate have canceled their appearances.

“That the organizers of SXSW have taken the decision to mix the arts with the military and weapons contractors is unforgivable,” said Kneecap in a statement posted to social media. “That they have done so as we witness a genocide facilitated by the US military and its contractors is depraved.”

The United States is the largest international financial backer of the IDF, providing Israel with nearly $4 billion per year. The Biden administration has also approved numerous weapons sales to Israel since the current escalation began in response to a Hamas-led attack on the country on October 7.

The American musician Ella Williams, also known as Squirrel Flower, noted in her announcement that the International Court of Justice said in January that Israel is “plausibly” committing genocide in Gaza.

“A music festival should not include war profiteers,” said Williams. “I refuse to be complicit in this and [withdraw] my art and labor in protest.”

AFPC condemned the Army’s sponsorship of SXSW as well as festival organizers’ decision to welcome defense contractors including RTX, also known as Raytheon; Collins Aerospace; and BAE Systems as participants.

RTX and Collins Aerospace, its subsidiary, make missiles, bombs, and aircraft components that are used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which has killed at least 31,341 Palestinians in Gaza since beginning its U.S.-backed bombardment of the enclave in October.

Rania Batrice, a Palestinian American progressive advocate, also announced Wednesday that she was canceling a speaking engagement at the festival.

“As a Palestinian and a human,” said Batrice, “I cannot be part of such a callous convening that platforms and celebrates an entity like RTX, which has caused so much death and destruction, and is now complicit in the genocide of my people—including far too many children.”

As the boycott grew, SXSW organizers this week defended the contractors, which have participated as exhibitors and sponsored events at the festival, as “leaders in emerging technologies” who “bring forward ideas that shape our world.”

They added that “the situation in the Middle East is tragic” and said the festival supports “human rights for all”—a response AFPC called “empty” and “performative.”

“These empty words touting ‘justice’ did not do a great job hiding the fact that SXSW IS forcing musicians to be in bed with warmongers,” said the group.


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