Organizers at Montreal’s Osheaga music festival are apologizing after a British rapper performed while dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with a swastika.
The festival says the fashion choice by Slowthai on Saturday “caused confusion” with some festivalgoers who may have misunderstood the T-shirt’s message.
The issue arose after photos and videos were posted online of the 27-year-old rapper, born Tyron Frampton, performing at Osheaga in a shirt depicting the word “destroy” overtop of a swastika.
A number of Jewish groups responded to the circulating images, including U.S.-based Stop Antisemitism, who labelled it “atrocious” and asked why Osheaga staff didn’t ensure Frampton was “immediately yanked offstage.”
While <a href=”https://twitter.com/slowthai?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@slowthai</a>’s intent at <a href=”https://twitter.com/osheaga?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@osheaga</a> 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. <a href=”https://t.co/WGp8RwkvRy”>pic.twitter.com/WGp8RwkvRy</a>
The design is a variation of “Destroy,” a controversial look created in the 1970s by fashion artist and activist Vivienne Westwood in collaboration with visual artist Malcolm McLaren.
In the design, a pink swastika appears in a red circle with an overturned image of Jesus on the cross laid overtop. An upside down postage stamp of Queen Elizabeth is tucked in the corner.
A statement released by Frampton apologized to “anyone who is offended by me wearing an anti-racist/anti-regime T-shirt and the use of the symbol it represents.”
“I want you to know I stand firmly against antisemitism and racism of any kind, something the T-shirt was meant to illustrate with the word ‘destroy’ above the symbol,” he added.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs urged Frampton to consider that intention to call out fascism is lost if “it is perceived entirely differently by those who see it.”
“Nazi imagery is not a fashion statement,” the organization said. “It should not be used as a stunt for attention or as a vehicle for publicity.”
Osheaga added in its statement: “We sincerely apologize to anyone who may have misinterpreted this message and felt hurt.”