Dozens of artists and speakers pull out of SXSW festival in protest of military and defense industry sponsorships

Dozens of artists and speakers pull out of SXSW festival in protest of military and defense industry sponsorships - Politics - News

South by Southwest Festival Witnesses Massive Withdrawal of Performers in Protest against US Military and Defense Companies’ Sponsorship Amidst Israel-Hamas Conflict

The ongoing South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, has seen a significant number of performers and speakers withdrawing from the event in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza amidst the escalating Israel-Hamas war. These artists have expressed their disapproval towards SXSW’s ties to the defense industry, specifically the US Army and some smaller defense firms.

Many Performers Withdraw from SXSW in Support of Palestinian People

As of now, numerous small bands and indie performers have pulled out from the annual tech, film, and music event, which concludes on March 16. Most of them have shared their decisions on social media platforms, citing the major event sponsorship from the US Army and a few smaller defense industry partnerships amidst US government support of Israel during the conflict.

First-mover: Singer-songwriter Ella Williams, also known as “Squirrel Flower,” was among the first to announce her withdrawal. Last week, she announced her boycott of SXSW, stating that she could not be complicit in the festival’s ties to the defense industry and supporting the Palestinian people.

Background: The US Army is one of SXSW’s six “super sponsors,” and at least three of the festival’s events have been sponsored by companies with defense industry connections. The US government has provided significant military aid to Israel following Hamas’ October 7 attacks that claimed over 1,200 lives in Israel. However, there have been growing divisions between the two nations’ leaders due to mounting civilian casualties in Gaza. Since Israel declared war on Hamas, more than 31,000 people have been killed and over 72,000 injured in Gaza, according to the health ministry there.

Artists Protest Against War Profiteers’ Presence at SXSW

“A music festival should not include war profiteers,” Williams shared on Instagram. “I refuse to be complicit in this and withdraw my art and labor in protest.” Some of the artists, like R&B artist Yaya Bey, singer Mei Semones, and punk band Scowl, have canceled their official festival appearances but plan to perform other scheduled shows in Austin instead.

Texas Governor Abbott’s Response: Texas Governor Greg Abbott reacted to the protest on social media, stating that “Bye. Don’t come back” and expressing pride in having the U.S. military in Texas.

Festival Organizers’ Defensive Stance: SXSW organizers defended their decision to accept the sponsors, stating that “The defense industry has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today. These institutions are often leaders in emerging technologies, and we believe it’s better to understand how their approach will impact our lives.” They also emphasized their commitment to bringing forward ideas that shape the world.

A Rally in Support: A rally is scheduled for Thursday evening outside a SXSW venue, hosted by Austin for Palestine Coalition and United Musicians and Allied Workers, advocating fairer wages and work standards for musical artists.

The Situation in the Middle East: The situation between Israel and Hamas is tragic, and it underscores the importance of standing together against injustice. SXSW continues to support human rights for all.

Background: Last year, SXSW attracted more than 340,000 attendees, and its events typically include conferences, panels, music showcases, film screenings, and exhibitions. Notable figures like actress Selena Gomez, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and investor Mark Cuban have participated in the festival this year.

In Conclusion: The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has led to significant protests from various artists, who are withdrawing from SXSW in protest of the event’s ties to the defense industry and the US Army. This issue has sparked debates about the role of war profiteers in music festivals, human rights, and political activism.