‘Why was he allowed to perform?’: Organizations react to rapper Slowthai wearing a swastika T-Shirt at Osheaga music festival

Slowthai performs at the Reading Music Festival, England, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Scott Garfitt)

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?!”

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.

Many other attendees reacted to it and denounced Slowthai’s decision to wear such a T-shirt.

One Twitter user said, “I was actually at the show and made me feel pretty damn uncomfortable. Happy with my decision to leave…”

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.

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."