Performers, speakers pull out of Texas festival over Army sponsorship

by Tommy Grant

More than 80 music artists and” target=“_blank”> multiple panelists have canceled appearances at South by Southwest Festival over the U.S. Army’s sponsorship of the event.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s response is “Bye. Don’t come back.”

Bands, musicians and speakers slated to appear at the festival — which runs from March 8 through March 16 — are pulling out in protest of the U.S. military’s support for Israel in the ongoing Israel-Hamas War.

“It is done in solidarity with the people of Palestine and to highlight the unacceptable deep links the festival has to weapons companies and the U.S. military who at this very moment are enabling a genocide and famine against a trapped population,” Ireland-based rap group Kneecap said in a statement on X.

California punk band Scowl, Brooklyn-based artist Okay Shalom and indie band Lambrini Girls are among the dozens of performers who have called off shows this week. Panelists Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, Princeton University professor Ruha Benjamin and others also canceled their appearances.

Many groups have issued statements on social media citing the inclusion of military defense manufacturers like Collins Aerospace, RTX and BAE Systems in the festival as a reason they canceled performances.

The United States is the largest supplier of military aid to Israel. Israeli Defense Forces began a military campaign in Gaza after a surprise attack by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people in Israel, with 253 more taken hostage.

Since then, more than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The U.S. is providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, where the United Nations declared in February that more than one quarter of residents are close to famine.

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas,” the Governor wrote on X. “If you don’t like it, don’t come here.”

The festival’s organizers responded to Abbott with their own statement on the social media platform, writing that South by Southwest “does not agree with Governor Abbott.”

SXSW typically draws over 300,000 attendees and generated nearly $381 million in spending for the Austin economy last year.

“We are an organization that welcomes diverse viewpoints,” the organizers wrote. “Music is the soul of SXSW, and it has long been our legacy. We fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech.”

On X, South by Southwest also defended its decision to accept the U.S. Army’s sponsorship. Festival organizers said that the sponsorship is part of their “commitment to bring forward ideas that shape our world.” The defense industry, they wrote, is often at the forefront of new technology.

The festival added that they “have and will continue to support human rights for all,” and called the war in the Middle East “tragic.”

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