In A Huge Win For BDS, SXSW Has Cut Ties with the U.S. Army and Weapons Manufacturers

The announcement follows news that UK festivals will be dropping Barclays as a sponsor as well.

This afternoon, the organisers of SXSW announced that they will be ending all partnerships with the U.S. Army and some of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers previously associated with the festival. The decision comes after a successful boycott which saw dozens of artists dropping out in protest of SXSW’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Defence, who continue to support Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the genocide in Gaza. 

“After careful consideration of our offerings, we are revising our sponsorship model,” the organisers said in a statement released shortly after opening applications for its 2025 showing. “As a result, the U.S. Army, and companies who engage in weapons manufacturing, will not be sponsors of SXSW 2025.” The announcement follows a boycott led by the Austin for Palestine Coalition which saw more than 60 artists drop out.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Army was revealed to be a “super sponsor” and regular exhibitor at SXSW, which sees 300,000 attendees annually, other sponsors for 2024 included C4 Energy, Delta, Porsche, Volkswagen and Collins Aerospace which is a subsidiary of RTX, the weapons manufacturer previously known as Raytheon. 

The boycotts began in February when the Austin for Palestine Coalition released a statement calling on the organisers of SXSW to reconsider its partnerships with the Department of Defence and companies complicit in Israel’s genocide in Gaza. “If SXSW wishes to retain its credibility, it must change course by disavowing the normalisation and militarisation within tech and entertainment industries,” the group said in a statement. SXSW responded by sending a cease and desist letter to the Austin for Palestine Coalition on February 23 for using trademarked SXSW logos, and on Twitter to boycotting artists by reaffirming its support for the U.S. defence industry, which it called a “proving ground” for new technology. People were quick to point out that this “proving ground” has resulted in new, experimental weapons being tested on the Palestinian people. 

The first artist to drop out of SXSW this year was Ella Williams, also known as Squirrel Flower, who released a full statement on Instagram. “I have decided to pull out of my official SXSW showcase in protest of SXSW’s ties to the defence industry and in support of the Palestinian people”, Williams began. “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 labour in protest.”

Northern Irish hip-hop trip Kneecap were quick to follow, posting a statement on their Instagram protesting “the very companies selling the weapons that have murdered 31,000 Palestinians, over 21,000 of them women and children.”

Next year’s SXSW festival is set to take place between 7th-15th March 2025 in Austin, the festival is also set to launch a UK version this summer.

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