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'Don't Come Back': Texas Gov. Abbott Slams Bands Protesting SXSW, While the Festival Says It 'Fully Respects' Dissent

The multimedia Austin event has recently come under fire for the participation of the U.S. Army and defense contractor RTX.

Source: MEGA

Multiple bands have pulled out of SXSW due to its ties to the U.S. Army.

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The SXSW Festival is fully underway down in Austin, Texas, with thousands of filmmakers, tech entrepreneurs and musicians gathered for a week's worth of screenings, conferences and club performances. However, a number of music acts booked for the festival's official showcases have been steadily pulling out over the past several days, with most expressing opposition to the festival's sponsorship from the U.S. Army and the participation of defense contractor RTX Corporation (formerly Raytheon).

On March 12, that slow-boiling anxiety spilled out into the open, with Texas governor Greg Abbott posting a confrontational message to X (formerly Twitter) in which he told protesting artists: "Don't come back."

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"Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command," the Republican governor continued. "San Antonio is Military City USA. We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here."

The festival was quick to respond to Abbott's post, writing: "SXSW does not agree with Gov. Abbott."

"We are an organization that welcomes diverse viewpoints," the festival continued in a thread. "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. 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.

"The defense industry has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today," the festival account said. "These institutions are often leaders in emerging technologies, and we believe it’s better to understand how their approach will impact our lives. 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. We have and will continue to support human rights for all. The situation in the Middle East is tragic, and it illuminates the heightened importance of standing together against injustice."

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sxsw gomez
Source: MEGA

Selena Gomez speaks on a SXSW panel in Austin earlier this week.

One of the first SXSW-booked acts to pull out of the festival was Ella Williams, who records as Squirrel Flower. In a statement announcing her withdrawal, Williams said: "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... 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 U.S. Army, a main sponsor of the festival."

Irish trio Kneecap was one of several artists to follow her lead, posting: “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."

According to The Austin Chronicle, the U.S. Army "hosts several events at the festival, including a presentation on technology innovation featuring Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and an official 'This Is Our House' activation in collaboration with the U.S. Navy and SPIN magazine." In addition, "Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of RTX Corporation (formerly Raytheon), will co-host the 'Boundary Breakers: The Next Leap in Government and Defense Innovation' event alongside entrepreneur network MassChallenge and defense software company Second Front Systems."

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sxsw abbott
Source: MEGA

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott offered some harsh words to bands protesting SXSW.

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In an unrelated incident earlier today, SXSW issued a statement following a fatal hit-and-run in downtown Austin during the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 12.

Two people were hit, the Austin American-Statesman reported. One died at the scene and another was critically injured and transported to a local hospital. It was unclear if the victims or the driver were attending the festival, though the accident occurred in Austin's downtown hub, which is largely taken over by SXSW during the week of the fest.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of an individual in downtown Austin following an auto-pedestrian accident that took place shortly after 1:00 am this morning," said SXSW's statement posted to X. "Our thoughts are with all affected by this tragic accident."


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