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Artists, speakers pull out of SXSW over US Army sponsorship

More than 80 of the scheduled guests and sponsors have joined the boycott in protest of the U.S. military's support of Israel.
Artists, speakers pull out of SXSW over US Army sponsorship
Posted at 3:06 PM, Mar 14, 2024

Artists, speakers and sponsors booked for the 2024 South by Southwest festival are pulling out of the event to protest the U.S. Army's sponsorship of the festival — because of the U.S. military's support of Israel in the country's war with Gaza.

SXSW began last Friday and is currently underway in Austin, Texas, until Saturday.

More than 80 of the scheduled guests and sponsors have joined the boycott thus far, according to one of the organizers, Austin for Palestine Coalition.

Calling for a "cease-fire now," the Austin for Palestine Coalition helped lead the charge. 

SXSW also has a partnership with Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of defense contractor RTX. 

"SXSW must disinvite Raytheon (RTX), its subsidiary Collins Aerospace, and BAE Systems to the conference and festivals in the city of Austin," the group said in an Instagram post.

"Raytheon, Collins Aerospace, and BAE Systems have direct ties to the arming of Israel, supporting their violent oppression of the Palestinian people. Raytheon manufactures missiles, bombs, and other weapon systems for the Israeli military to use against Palestinians," it said. 

The U.S. is the largest supplier of military equipment to Israel.

American punk band Scowl is among those who pulled out of the event. 

"We came to this decision in protest of the U.S. Army's sponsorship of SXSW, as well as the involvement of RTX (formerly Raytheon), Collins Aerospace, and BAE Systems, [who] have direct ties to the manufacturing and supplying of weapons used against Palestinians," the band said in a statement posted to X.

"We refuse to be complicit in the face of genocide in Palestine. We refuse to participate in the war machine," Scowl said.

Ibrahim Batshon is a Palestinian American and the chief executive of digital music-licensing platform BeatStars, which has long been a sponsor of SXSW, according to The New York Times. He told NYT he pulled out this year upon learning of the Army’s sponsorship. He lost six family members to a bombing while taking refuge at a church in Gaza City.

"When I found out they were going to have a massive presence at a music festival where creatives and young people get together to collaborate and connect, I couldn’t get behind that," he told The Times.

Texas Gov. Greg Abott responded to the boycott on X. 

"Bye. Don’t come back," Abbott said. "We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here." 

The festival issued a statement in response to the governor’s remarks.

"SXSW does not agree with Governor Abbott," it said on Instagram.

"We are an organization that welcomes diverse viewpoints. 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," SXSW said.

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

"Across the globe, we are witnessing unspeakable tragedies, the rise of repressive regimes, and the increasing spread of violent conflict. It's more crucial than ever that we come together to solve these greater humanitarian issues," it concluded.

The SXSW boycott comes after a number of actors and musicians showed their support for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas by wearing red pins at the Oscars on Sunday.

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