Governor Draws Line In the Sand: ‘Don’t Come Back’

( – The South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, was dozens of performers short for their 2024 event after artists withdrew from the event because of the inclusion of the US Army and entities from the US military-industrial complex as sponsors. However, Texas Governor Greg Abbott appeared unphased by the pullouts and even called on the protesting performers to never return to the state.

Abbott said in a statement via social media platform X (formerly Twitter) that Texas is proud of the US military. Austin is the home of Army Futures Command, and San Antonio has been dubbed Military City USA.

“Bye. Don’t come back,” Abbott said to the performers who pulled out of SXSW. Artists who disagree with the state’s ties to the US military are free not to go there, Abbott added.

The protest of SXSW was sparked by the pro-Palestine activist group Austin for Palestine Coalition (APC). On February 21, APC posted to Instagram urging people to call on SXSW organizers to disinvite companies that manufacture weapons for Israel, including RTX Corporation (formerly known as Raytheon).

SXSW responded to APC with a cease-and-desist letter, claiming that the activist group used trademarked SXSW art without permission. In turn, APC contended that their use of the graphics constitutes First Amendment-protected political parody.

SXSW organizers also fired back at Abbott for encouraging artists who pulled out of the festival not to return. SXSW fully respects the artists’ decision, organizers said in a statement. Regardless, SXSW also believes it is important to understand how the work of the defense industry impacts people’s lives, according to the statement.

One event at SXSW that occurred as planned was the debut of the film “Civil War,” which depicts a domestic conflict within the United States. The film, made by British director Alex Garland, follows a group of reporters covering the fictional civil war. Garland called the film a “love letter” to journalism.

Although the film shows the potentially violent outcome of political tensions in the US, tensions involving SXSW remain in the realm of protest.

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