SXSW supports artists boycotting the Austin festival, even as the Texas governor slams them

The interior of a convention center decorated with vibrant banners. Dozens of attendees stand around and use and escalator
South by Southwest, which began last week at the Austin Convention Center in Texas, touts the Army among its sponsors. (SXSW Conference & Festivals via Getty Images)
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South by Southwest has voiced support for artists boycotting its festivities and events in Austin, Texas, after they were criticized by that state's governor, Greg Abbott, on social media.

The annual entertainment and technology festival said in a missive Tuesday that it "does not agree with Governor Abbott" and his take on the numerous artists who decried the festival's Army sponsorship.

"We are an organization that welcomes diverse viewpoints. Music is the soul of SXSW and it has long been our legacy," the Instagram statement said. "We fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech."

Read more: 1,000 Gaza protesters rally in Hollywood ahead of Oscars, blocking traffic

SXSW kicked off last week at the Austin Convention Center and is set to run until Saturday. However, in recent days, several musicians have dropped out of their scheduled appearances, boycotting the festival for its sponsorship deal with the Army, and the military's support for Israel amid its war against Hamas in Gaza that stemmed from the militant group's Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Singer Rachel Chinouriri announced her plans to pull out of SXSW in an Instagram post Tuesday. She expressed disappointment with the Army being a festival "super sponsor," noting that she was horrified to learn about military-inspired wellness events at SXSW.

Chinouriri, who said she is a daughter of soldiers, added that her decision to quit her SXSW gig was "extremely easy," and she shared her sympathies for victims of war. She also expressed concern for the "many independent artists" who will continue to play at SXSW, which has long served as an incubator for upcoming talent across industries.

She continued: "This has been an enormous oversight by SXSW and hopefully a huge learning experience to be more considerate about this in the future."

Read more: How the U.S. has fueled Israel's decades-long war on Palestinians

Similarly, Irish hip-hop group Kneecap announced Sunday that it would not play its shows at SXSW. In an X (formerly Twitter) statement — sporting the colors of the Palestinian flag — Kneecap said the decision was "done in solidarity with the people of Palestine" and to highlight the festival's "deep links" to weapons companies and the military. The "Sick in the Head" trio also slammed SXSW for platforming weapons manufacturers RTX, Collins Aerospace and BAE Systems.

Pulling out of SXSW will take a financial toll, but Kneecap said that "it isn't an iota of hardship when compared with the unimaginable suffering being inflicted every minute of every day on the people of Gaza."

Israel launched its airstrikes and a ground invasion of Gaza after Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 240 hostages. The death toll in Gaza has since passed 30,000, according to the Associated Press which cites Gaza health officials.

Additional musicians who have pulled out of the festival include Sprints, Scowl, Lambrini Girls, Okay Shalom and Squirrel Flower, the BBC reported.

In response to a report of the artists quitting their SXSW appearances and denouncing the Army, Abbott tweeted Tuesday: "Bye. Don't come back."

Read more: Those red buttons people are wearing on red carpets are a call for a cease-fire in Gaza

In a post touting his state's military presence, Abbott wrote, "We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas. If you don't like it, don't come here."

SXSW, in addition to condemning the Texas governor, acknowledged the "unspeakable tragedies, the rise of repressive regimes and the increasing spread of violent conflict across the globe." The statement also called for unity.

The festival's message explained its Army sponsorship, noting that the "defense industry has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today." It added that Collins Aerospace's sponsored events seek to highlight and raise funds for entrepreneurs creating "potentially game-changing work."

The SXSW statement ended: "We have and will continued to support human rights for all. The situation in the Middle East is tragic, and it illuminates the heightened importance of standing together against justice."

"We're proud to be a sponsor of SXSW, and to have the opportunity to showcase America's Army," a spokesperson for the Army said in a statement shared with multiple outlets.

Times staff writer Ashley Ahn contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.