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Massive Attack cancel gig in Georgia amid protests

British band Massive Attack have pulled out of their upcoming concert in Georgia in protest against the government’s “attack on basic human rights”.

The gig was set to take place on 28 July at the Black Sea Arena (cap. 9,000) near Batumi, the country’s second-largest city.

It was announced in April as part of Starring Georgia, a two-year campaign that has brought international stars such as OneRepublic, Scorpions and Jungle to the country.

The cancellation of Massive Attack’s concert was initially announced by organisers, who claimed that it had been made due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

But in a statement issued a few hours later on Wednesday (12 June), the trip-hop band clarified that they feared appearing in Georgia would be seen as an endorsement of the country’s political leadership.

Hundreds of thousands of people have massed outside Georgia’s parliament in recent months to protest against a “foreign agents” law. It obliges media and civil society organisations with over 20% of their revenues from abroad to register as “organisations serving the interests of a foreign power”.

The legislation has been described by Brussels as an obstacle to Georgia’s accession to the European Union, while the US state department has also raised its concerns that the “Kremlin-inspired law” is evidence that the country’s government is realigning with Moscow three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, per The Guardian.

“Beatings, arrests, threats and violence… go against everything we stand for”

Those protesting against the law have been seized off the streets and political opponents have been beaten by both police officers and unidentified gangs.

Georgia’s ruling party also came under scrutiny earlier this year when it introduced a bill that would prevent same-sex marriages from being registered and ensure that only “heterosexuals” could adopt children.

At the same time, references to LGBTQ+ people would be erased from public spaces under the draft legislation, and schools would be banned from making available information that supposedly “promotes belonging to the opposite sex, same-sex relations or incest”.

“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 Massive Attack 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.”

The Bristol band added that they stood in “solidarity with peaceful protesters in Georgia defying state violence and feel that it is their voices that need to be heard and their struggle that needs to be under the international spotlight”.

Organisers of the event said ticket holders would be refunded.

The news comes a month after 4GB Festival, an annual international electronic music festival held in Georgia since 2011, cancelled its 2024 edition amid the protests.

“Based on the situation in the country, we consider it unjustified to hold a festival at this time,” organisers wrote on Instagram. “Our full support to every person fighting for the European future of Georgia.”


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