SXSW Addresses U.S. Army Sponsorship as Artists Protest Festival in Support of Palestine

Several musicians have pulled out of SXSW events and showcases in protest of the festival’s connections to the U.S. Army and Collins Aerospace (a subsidiary of the defense contractor RTX Corporation). Among the artists to remove themselves from the festival are Squirrel Flower, Mamalarky, Shalom, and Irish rap trio Kneecap, all of whom are protesting the United States and RTX’s support for Israel in the war in Gaza.

Texas’ governor, Greg Abbott, chastised the acts who are protesting the festival, and SXSW has now responded that it “does not agree with Governor Abbott” and that it supports the artists’ decisions to drop out of the Austin events.

Explaining its associations with the U.S. Army and Collins Aerospace, SXSW wrote, “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 festival’s statement concludes: “The situation in the Middle East is tragic, and it illuminates the heightened importance of standing together against injustice.”

Ellen Lovett, an Army spokeswoman, said in a statement to Stars and Stripes, “We’re proud to be a sponsor of SXSW, and to have the opportunity to showcase America’s Army. SXSW presents a unique opportunity for the Army to meet technology innovators and leaders, explore new ideas and insights, and create dynamic industry partnerships as we modernize for the future.”

The United States is Israel’s top military backer, as BBC Newsbeat notes. RTX Corporation, in particular, is also known to supply weapons to Israel.

According to Gaza’s local health ministry, more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its military offensive following the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7.

“A music festival should not include war profiteers,” Squirrel Flower wrote in her statement last week. “I refuse to be complicit in this and withdrawal my art and labor in protest.”


South by Southwest:

SXSW does not agree with Governor Abbott.

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.

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. 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.