Warning: This story may contain details and images that are disturbing to readers.
Many concert goers were left angry, and even uncomfortable, after a British rapper performed while dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with a swastika at Montreal’s Osheaga music festival this weekend.
The issue arose after videos were posted on Twitter of the 27-year-old political rapper, Tyron Frampton (also known as “Slowthai”), performing at Osheaga in a shirt that said the word “destroy” above an image of a swastika.
On the T-shirt, a pink swastika is painted in a red circle with an overturned image of Jesus on the cross above it. An upside-down stamp of Queen Elizabeth is also tucked in the corner.
A number of Jewish groups responded to the circulating images.
A leading non-partisan American-based organization, Stop Antisemitism, tweeted, “ATROCIOUS! The only word that comes to mind when we see Tyron Frampton (i.e. @slowthai) allowed to perform yesterday at the Osheaga music festival in Quebec adorning a bright red swastika. Why wasn’t he immediately yanked off the stage @osheage @Nfarkas?!”
ATROCIOUS! The only word that comes to mind when we see Tyron Frampton (i.e. @slowthai) allowed to perform yesterday at the Osheaga music festival in Quebec adorning a bright red swastika.
Why wasn’t he immediately yanked off the stage @osheaga @Nfarkas?! pic.twitter.com/SXP7iItjPa
— StopAntisemitism (@StopAntisemites) August 1, 2022
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, a human rights organization based in Toronto, also reacted to the video of the rapper on Twitter.
“This ambiguous display of the swastika was frightening for Jews and others and should never have made it to the stage,” they said in a tweet.
While @slowthai’s intent at @osheaga may have been to denounce Nazism, the message was very badly executed. This ambiguous display of the swastika was frightening for Jews and others and should never have made it to the stage. pic.twitter.com/WGp8RwkvRy
— Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (@CanadianFSWC) July 31, 2022
Many other attendees reacted to it and denounced Slowthai’s decision to wear such a T-shirt.
Today at the @osheaga music fest, @slowthai performs wearing a #swastika t-shirt. At what point does his manager, festival organizers, or stage managers step in and say this symbol of hate has no place at the festival, in #Quebec, or in #Canada? #antisemitism @AviBenlolo pic.twitter.com/QbOeYPdLRE
— Neil Orlowsky Ph.D. 🍁 (@norlowsky) July 31, 2022
Unbelievable that @osheaga seems to think that it’s ok for Tyron Frampton (i.e. @slowthai) to wear a tshirt with the Nazi swastika during his show. Under this symbol, millions of Jews were persecuted, shot, burned alive, raped, gassed, tortured, eliminated, exterminated. pic.twitter.com/gjmJFmR7b5
— Richard Marceau (@richardmarceau) August 1, 2022
One Twitter user said, “I was actually at the show and made me feel pretty damn uncomfortable. Happy with my decision to leave…”
— Jaime Kirzner-Roberts (@jaimekr) July 31, 2022
However, many Twitter and Reddit users were also quick to point out that Slowthai’s T-shirt was a version of an iconic Vivienne Westwood-designed “Destroy” T-shirt from 1977 created in collaboration with artist Malcolm McLaren.
whether or not the outfit choice was a great idea is a different story but Vivienne Westwood has a series of antifascist designs including the one worn by Slowthai that are anything but new pic.twitter.com/9kAtQ9UxkT
— matty (@mattyjones_x) August 1, 2022
perhaps some due context for conclusion jumpers pic.twitter.com/leQlgZ9x4I
— matty (@mattyjones_x) August 1, 2022
Although the word “DESTROY” was clearly visible, the rapper faced fierce criticism, including allegations of antisemitism, and put out an apology shortly after the event.
I’m sorry to anyone who is offended by me wearing an anti-fascist / anti-regime T-shirt and the use of the symbol it represents,” the rapper said in his tweet. I want you to know I stand firmly against antisemitism and antifascism of any kind, something the T-shirt was meant to illustrate with the word ‘destroy’ above the symbol.”Rapper Slowthai
Osheaga also issued a formal apology on its social media platforms.
The festival said the fashion choice by Slowthai “caused confusion”with some attendees who might not have understood that it “denounces the regime”.
The statement read:
"A performer appeared on stage Saturday wearing a controversial T-shirt displaying a swastika that caused confusion. The T-shirt denounces the regime. We sincerely apologize to anyone who may have misinterpreted this message and felt hurt."