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South by Southwest has finally addressed the recent artist dropout in protest of the festival’s US army and defense contractors sponsorships. The statement came after Texas governor Greg Abbott took to X (formerly Twitter) to write: “Bands pull out of SXSW over U.S. Army Sponsorship. Bye. Don’t come back. Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command. 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.”

“SXSW does not agree with Governor Abbott,” the organization replied, adding, “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.”

Dozens of artists and presenters have canceled their scheduled showcases earlier and during the eight-day festival (ends March 16), citing as reason its sponsorship collaboration with the US military and other defense manufacturers amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas armed conflict.

Among the first to pull out from the event was Ella Williams (Squirrel Flower), who in her March 5 Instagram post emphasized that her decision was “in protest of SXSW’s ties to the defense industry and in support of the Palestinian people,” which sentiment singer-songwriter Eliza McLamb shared, stating, “I will never put my name on or perform my labor for an event in service of the US war machine, and especially not now as they continue to fuel the ongoing violence against Palestinians.”

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SXSW explained in the same series of tweets: “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.”

The US army is listed as a “super sponsor” of this year’s festival. Collins Aerospace, on the other hand, is a subsidiary of RTX Corporation, which has long supplied weapons to the Israeli government.

“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,” SXSW concluded its statement.

The Israel-Hamas war began in October 2023 after Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. The offensive, the group said, was in response to what it calls Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

Read SXSW’s full statement via Instagram below.

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