SXSW boots US Army, weapons maker sponsorship for 2025 festival

Organizers of the annual South by Southwest festival (SXSW) have cut ties with the Army and weapons makers.

The decision, announced Wednesday, comes after more than 100 acts dropped out of the music and cultural event in Austin, Texas, earlier this year due to sponsorship deals with such organizations.

“After careful consideration, we are revising our sponsorship model,” SXSW said in a statement on its website. “As a result, the US Army, and companies who engage in weapons manufacturing, will not be sponsors of SXSW 2025.”

In March, at least five music labels and 105 bands and individual musicians chose to forgo the nine-day festival in Austin in protest of U.S. support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

The boycotts stemmed from a campaign led by the Austin for Palestine Coalition (AFPC), which asked artists to apply pressure on SXSW over the participation of defense entities, which also included military defense firm RTX, also known as Raytheon, and its subsidiary Collins Aerospace. Both make weapons and equipment used by the Israeli military.

The boycotts quickly drew the attention of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who told the departing artists: “Bye. Don’t come back.”

SXSW organizers at the time said they did not agree with Abbott’s stance, but defended the Army’s sponsorship role in the festival. They noted that the defense industry “has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today,” and the Army’s sponsorship “is part of our commitment to bring forward ideas that shape our world.”

Israel in October launched an air and ground campaign in the Gaza Strip after the Hamas militant group, which controls the territory, attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking 253 others hostage.

More than 37,000 people have since been killed in the area and more than 86,000 have been injured in the conflict, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The United States, Israel’s biggest military backer, provides some $4 billion to Israel in defense assistance annually. The Pentagon has also sent additional weapons to the country to be used in the now eight-month conflict, such as American-made aircraft and bombs.

Festival organizers at the time acknowledged the conflict but did not take sides.

“We have and will continue to support human rights for all,” they wrote. “The situation in the Middle East is tragic, and it illuminates the heightened importance of standing together against injustice.”

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