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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
13 June 2024, 12:51

Massive Attack cancel Georgia gig in protest of government’s “attack on basic human rights”

"We stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters in Georgia defying state violence"

Massive Attack cancel Georgia concert
Warren Du Preez

Massive Attack have cancelled their upcoming gig in Georgia in protest of what they describe as an "attack on basic human rights" by the country's government. 

The band had been due to play the Black Sea Arena in Shekvetili on 28th July as part of a wider programme of events, Starring Georgia. News broke yesterday, Wednesday 12th June, that the outfit would no longer appear in response to recent events which have rocked the Caucasus state. 

Following parliamentary approval for what's been dubbed a 'foreign agents' bill, thousands of protestors have taken to streets towns and cities across the country. The new laws require NGOs to register as 'pursuing the interests of a foreign power' if more than 20% of their funding comes from abroad. This has raised widespread concerns about a clampdown on opposition voices. 

Making the announcement on social media yesterday, Wednesday 12th June, Massive Attack issued a statement about their decision:

"We've decided to cancel our show in Georgia on 28 July in protest of the Georgian government's attack on basic human rights. 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. 

"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. 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." 

Widespread protests over the new bill began in April, largely centred on the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Critics argue the law mirrors similar legislation in Russia which has been used to silence organisations and individuals challenging Vladimir Putin's regime.

Georgia's governing Georgian Dream party rang further alarm bells when it argued new regulations were necessary to prevent overseas influence, including the promotion of "LGBT propaganda". 

Despite winning a majority vote of 84 to 4, Georgian President Salome Zourabichivili has himself refused to sign the bill because it "contradicts our constitution and all European standards". Most opposition lawmakers abstained from the process. 

On Monday 13th May, a day before legislation was passed, Georgia's Special Investigation Service opened a new case based on claims riot police had used unnecessary force on activists. This followed several reports of teargas, water canons, and physical assaults.

Analysts now suggest the country's hopes of ascension into the EU have been dashed as a result of the legislation, and a number of other events have already cancelled amid the ongoing unrest. This includes the 11th edition of 4GB Festival, which issued a statement in support of "every person fighting for the European future of Georgia."

In September, DJ Mag's On Cue mix series shone a spotlight on Gacha Bakradze, co-founder and resident at Tbilisi venue Left Bank. The club is one of many in the city speaking out against regressive laws, and the subjugation, oppression and persecution of pro-LGBTQ voices and platforms in particular, alongside wider state corruption and brutality. In October, Georgia will hold national elections to decide which party takes power for the next four years. 

It is far from the first time Massive Attack have been vocal on matters of global political significance. Late last year, Massive Attack, Young Fathers, Fontaines D.C. clubbed together to create a vinyl and art print in support of charity Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and their emergency operations in Gaza. Earlier this month, Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja, AKA 3D, featured in a video online in which he read a letter written by a doctor based in Gaza.

This summer, the group's first UK gig in five years will be a test-run of their long-planned decarbonisation measures for live music. The event, which was first announced late last year, will be powered by Ecotricity and Grid Faeries, and aims to be the lowest carbon and greenhouse gas emissions show of its size ever staged