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Massive Attack cancels show because of Georgia’s attack on 'basic human rights'

Massive Attack cancels show because of Georgia’s attack on human rights
Massive Attack cancels show because of Georgia’s attack on human rights Copyright REGINA KUEHNE/AP
Copyright REGINA KUEHNE/AP
By David Mouriquand
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The band's announcement comes as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Georgia recently, protesting a parliament-approved law regulating the media and NGOs, which for many echoes similar legislation in Russia.

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Massive Attack have cancelled one of their upcoming shows in Georgia, in protest of the “government’s attack on basic human rights”. 

The British band were due to perform on 28 July at the Black Sea Arena, north of Batoumi, the country's second-largest city.  

Today (12 June), Robert Del Naja posted a message on the band’s social networks to announce that their decision was taken to protest against human rights violations by the Georgian government.  

The announcement comes as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Georgia recently, protesting a parliament-approved law regulating the media and NGOs, which for many echoes similar legislation in Russia. 

The “foreign agents” bill “requires media and NGOs to register as ‘pursuing the interests of a foreign power’ if they receive more than 20 per cent of their funding from abroad.”  

In late April, the Shame Movement, a local CSO, wrote to Massive Attack, urging them to acknowledge the “serious and alarming political context” in which their event would take place.  

In its letter, the Shame movement cited the Georgian government’s “massive attack” on “Georgia’s civil society, independent media, socially vulnerable groups, LGBTQIA+ community, women, ethnic, religious, and other minorities.” 

“Your upcoming performance at the Black Sea Arena – a venue constructed by Ivanishvili and now funded by the state – risks being manipulated as part of the Georgian Dream’s pre-election tactics to divert public attention from pressing issues and obscure these critical concerns during the electoral period,” the Shame movement’s letter to Massive Attack read, adding: “Knowing that Massive Attack champions justice, freedom of expression, civil activism, and LGBTQ+ rights, we ask you to familiarise yourselves with the alarming political climate in Georgia.” 

It seems that the letter worked.  

“At this moment, performing at the state-owned Black Sea Arena could be seen as an endorsement of their violent crackdown against peaceful protests and civil society,” said the band in a statement. “Beatings, arrests, threats, and violence against peaceful protesters, activists, and opponents, along with laws smearing civil society and denying LGBTI rights, go against everything we stand for.” 

They continued: “We stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters in Georgia defying state violence & feel that it is their voices that need to be heard and their struggle that needs to be under the international spotlight. We’ll return and perform with you in freedom. #ProtecttheProtest”. 

Massive Attack have always been vocal about their political and social beliefs, and have recently reiterated their support for Palestine. They announced a Gaza benefit single last year, with 100 per cent of the profits to be donated to the charity Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders to help their emergency operations in Gaza and the West Bank. 

They have also supported the numerous musical artists that have dropped out of UK festivals like The Great Escape or Latitude, over the festivals’ ties with sponsors linked to Israel. 

“We’ve endless, special respect for younger artists or artists at earlier stages of their careers who choose to take a stand against corporate support for apartheid and now genocide in Palestine.” 

Massive Attack are touring in Europe this summer, with dates including Netherlands (27/06), France (3/07; 22/08), Switzerland (5/07), Italy (13/07; 2/09), UK (25/08) and Portugal (29/08).  

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