Kneecap join Gaza boycott of SXSW festival over US army role

Kneecap join Gaza boycott of SXSW festival over US army role
Bands are withdrawing from South by Southwest in solidarity with the people of Gaza and because of the US Army’s “super sponsorship” of the event.
3 min read
12 March, 2024
Many bands are pulling out from SXSW in solidarity with the people of Gaza and because of the US Army’s “super sponsorship” of the event [GETTY]

Bands and artists are pulling out of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival to protest Israel's war on Gaza due to the US army's "super sponsorship" of the event.

The festival is set to take place in Texas from 8 March to 16 March, but comes amid the devastating war on Gaza where Israel, with US political and material support, has killed over 31,100 Palestinians.

The latest act to pull out is Belfast band Kneecap, who said on X that their decision to pull their three shows is done "in solidarity with the people of Palestine". 

The band highlighted the links the festival has with arms firms and the US military who are "enabling genocide and famine against a trapped population".

"We cannot in good conscience attend an arts festival that has 'the U.S. Army' as a 'super sponsor' and is platforming RTX (formerly Raytheon), Collins Aerospace and BAE Systems, the very companies selling the weapons that have murdered 31,000 Palestinians, over 21,000 of them women and children," the band said.

The boycott is led by Chicago-based songwriter Ella Williams, also known as Squirrel Flower, who announced on Instagram her withdrawal and encouraged other musicians to do the same.

"There are many ways SXSW is harmful to working musicians, but I am pulling out specifically because of the fact that SXSW is platforming defense contractors including Raytheon subsidiaries as well as the US Army, a main sponsor of the festival," the singer said.

"Genocide profiteers like Raytheon supply weapons to the IDF, paid for by our taxes. A music festival should not include war profiteers. I refuse to be complicit in this and withdraw my art and labor in protest.

"I will still be playing unofficial showcases, and I encourage them all to take a vocal stand against SXSW. I encourage my fellow musicians to do the same."


A post shared by squirrel flower (@sqrrlflwr)

Other acts to pull out include Sprints, Scowl, Gel, Okay Shalom and Lambrini Girls. Lambrini Girls said they cannot affiliate themselves "whatsoever" with SXSW on X.

The Brighton-based duo and Kneecap said they considered protesting on stage or performing unofficial showcases but decided against it.

Okay Shalom said on Instagram: "There's always a right thing to do and it's almost never as complicated as the establishment wants you to believe. and sometimes it costs you a dream, but a dream is a dream and not a life. palestinians deserve to dream. they deserve to live."

The US is currently the primary supplier of weapons to Israel, with many US-made weapons having been deployed in the war on Gaza.

Biden has also agreed over 100 'secret arms deals' to Israel, since 7 October.

Washington has said it is applying pressure on Israel over its war on Gaza, however has stopped short of threatening to pull its military and financial aid.