Artists boycott SXSW festival in solidarity with Palestine

Artists boycott SXSW festival in solidarity with Palestine

The protest pertains to the arts festival's sponsorship by the US army, who are heavily involved in Israeli aggression in Gaza.
14 Mar, 2024

Over 70 artists and panellists have boycotted the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in solidarity with Palestine after the festival’s ties with the United States military came to light — the US army sponsors the festival.

The festival, which is held annually in Austin, Texas, “is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture”, according to its website.

Artists highlighted the US army and government’s support of Israel despite the atrocities it has committed and continues to commit in Gaza. They also protested the platforming of defence contractors such as RTX (formerly Raytheon), Collins Aerospace and BAE Systems for their sale of weapons.

“I have decided to pull out of my official SXSW showcases in protest of the SXSW’s ties to the defence industry and in support of the Palestinian people,” Ella Williams, known by the stage name Squirrel Flower, wrote on her Instagram. The singer maintained that she was specifically pulling out of the festival because it platformed defence contractors.

In her post, Williams also highlighted that the “IDF [Israel Defence Forces] has now killed at least one in every 75 inhabitants of Gaza, including 12,300 children. The International Court of Justice has ruled that this plausibly amounts to genocide.”

Similarly, Kneecap, an Irish hip-hop group also announced that they cancelled three shows at the SXSW and do not plan to travel to Austin.

“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 US military who at this very moment are enabling a genocide and famine against a trapped population.”

Kneecap also stated that they couldn’t “in good conscience” attend a festival which hosted companies “selling the weapons that have murdered 31,000 Palestinians, over 21,000 of them women and children”.

Singer Shalom also stated that in an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people she pulled out of the festival despite her dreams of attending as an official performer.

“A dream power by the US army, defence contractors, the CIA — those dreams are powered by the blood of innocents. I will not be complicit in the ongoing, US-sponsored genocide of the Palestinian people.”

Austin For Palestine, “a coalition of various Austin-based advocacy groups and organisations… demanding Austin support a permanent ceasefire in Palestine”, have supported the artists pulling out of the SXSW.

The organisation, along with United Musicians & Allied Workers, has announced a rally on March 14, demanding “fair pay and no warmongers at SXSW”.

According to the BBC, Belfast punk band Enola Gay are among the acts boycotting the festival; instead choosing to play the ‘Anti-SXSW Fest’, organised by the Austin For Palestine Coalition.

“Our schedule for our time in Austin has changed for the better,” the band stated. “We refuse to partake in SX while they run military events and panels displaying their new technology, such as AI and drones.”

The Coalition’s festival features artists who dropped out of SXSW in solidarity with Palestine.

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They also took to Instagram to highlight more than 70 artists and panellists who boycotted and dropped out of SXSW.

SXSW sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Austin for Palestine Coalition, threatening legal action because the activist group used trademark art without permission in a post urging the festival to disinvite defence contractors. The post, dated February 21, highlighted that the defence contractors “have direct ties to the arming of Israel, supporting their violent oppression of the Palestinian people. By supporting these companies, SXSW is complicit in human rights abuses and violations of international law.”

After news broke of bands pulling out of the SXSW, Texas Governor Greg Abbott reaffirmed his support of the US army and bid the artists a rather snarky adieu.

“Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command. We are proud of the US military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.”

In response, SXSW swiftly stated that it did not agree with Abbott and instead welcomed diverse viewpoints.

“We fully respect the decisions these artists made to exercise their right to free speech,” they wrote in an Instagram post, adding that it was crucial to “come together to solve these greater humanitarian issues”.

However, the festival did not sever ties with the defence industry, claiming that it provided grounds for “many of the systems we rely on today”.

“We believe it’s better to understand how their approach will impact our lives.”


Anonymouseee Mar 14, 2024 01:20pm
Salute to these brave artists to boycott the terrorists who continue to kill Palestinian women and children.
NYS Mar 14, 2024 01:35pm
Standing ovation for those artists who boycott SXSW Festival for the sake of Palestine
Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Mar 14, 2024 02:00pm
Great move and excellent news stemming out of the capital city of Austin, Texas, U.S.A. spearheaded by the brave, bold and brilliant artists, singers and musicians who have publicly shown their courage, guts, resilience, fortitude and the grit to call a spade a spade. Well done, keep it up and hang on tough.
Laila Mar 14, 2024 03:12pm
Great stance, but remember your tax dollars go to the state and they financially aid Israel. It is strange that the sudden awoken conscience of people to stand for their moral convictions, protest and boycot only happens in case of Palestine. The relentless bombardment, drone attacks and destruction of Afghanistan, the equally long warzone of Kashmir, the plight of Uhiyghur Muslims of China and the displaced refugees of Mynamar etc never ignited this passionate and worldwide effort or awoke their conscience. So some persecution, bloodshed and genocide is ok to them.
Vip Mar 14, 2024 05:53pm
@laila, you were selective to name only persecutions happening to Muslims
Tahmad Mar 14, 2024 07:29pm
Israel is nothing with out support of USA and UK, if these two countries stopped funding and arms supplies to Israel, the Israelis aggression towards Gaza and parts of West Banks stopped very next day.
Hamed Mar 14, 2024 11:10pm
Boycott is good method to keep away from certain type of organisation's. However we know that crimes against Arabs will continue.
Laila Mar 15, 2024 06:51pm
@VIP Not really, no. Not sure what do you mean by name only persecutions. Tangible verified unbiased proof? Talk about being in denial. You are selective to injustice. So I highly recommend you use this blessed month of Ramadan and turn your scrutiny inwards to yourself and reflect and so better. There is lots of injustice in the world. All should count and get equal exposure. But not all do. That was my point.