SXSW Stands By Military, Weapons Maker Partnerships As Bands Boycott Over Gaza

The Austin-based festival lamented “the situation in the Middle East” but stuck by its partners.

After dozens of bands canceled appearances at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival as part of a protest over connections to the Israeli invasion of Gaza, the mammoth Austin-based event defended its partnerships with the U.S. Army and a weapons manufacturer Tuesday.

The bands objected to SXSW partnerships with the U.S. Army and Collins Aerospace, among others. Collins is a subsidiary of RTX, the defense contractor formerly known as Raytheon.

“I have decided to pull out of my official SXSW showcases in protest of SXSW’s ties to the defense industry and in support of the Palestinian people,” Ella Williams, known by the stage name Squirrel Flower, wrote earlier this month.

Kneecap, a Northern Irish hip-hop trio, wrote on Instagram Sunday, one day before the music portion of the festival began, that they could not attend an event that platforms “the very companies selling the weapons that have murdered 31,000 Palestinians, over 21,000 of them women and children.”

On Tuesday, the Austin For Palestine Coalition ― an activist group that SXSW has threatened with legal actionpublished the names of more than 80 artists who they said had canceled SXSW appearances as part of the protest.

“The boycott of SXSW grows every day,” the group said. “No more war profiteers and warmongers in this city! Free Palestine. Ceasefire Now.”

“Bye. Don’t come back,” Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote on X Tuesday, referring to bands that had pulled out of the festival.

Referring to the governor’s post, SXSW’s account wrote, “SXSW does not agree with Governor Abbott,” and said it respected “the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech.”

But the festival account also defended its ties to the weapons industry and U.S. military, saying “the defense industry has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today.”

The U.S. Army is a SXSW “super sponsor” this year; festival attendees will encounter the Army’s eSports team, its physical fitness test, Army-affiliated bands and several military-hosted events, Stars and Stripes reported.

The festival said Tuesday that “the Army’s sponsorship is part of our commitment to bring forward ideas that shape our world.” Referring to Collins Aerospace, SXSW said “they participated this year as a sponsor of two SXSW Pitch categories, giving entrepreneurs visibility and funding for potentially game-changing work.”

“We have and will continue to support human rights for all,” the statement concluded. “The situation in the Middle East is tragic, and it illuminates the heightened importance of standing together against injustice.”

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