Roger Waters wins legal battle for Frankfurt concert after antisemitism claims
Thursday 27 April 2023
Roger Waters has won a legal battle to play a forthcoming concert in Frankfurt after it was initially cancelled over claims of antisemitism.
The former Pink Floyd frontman was supposed to play at the publicly owned Festhalle on May 28, but Frankfurt City Council called off the performance over the musician’s views on Israel. They later described him as “one of the world’s most widely-known antisemites”.
Despite the cancellation, Waters suggested earlier this month he’s “coming anyway” in an update on Instagram update alongside a photo of the grave of Sophie Scholl, a German student and anti-Nazi activist who was beheaded via guillotine in 1943 for distributing anti-war leaflets around the University of Munich.
The post also suggested that Waters had filed an injunction against the council but has not had a response. He had previously indicated that he could take legal action against the motion to cancel his performances, which he argued was “unjustifiable” and an attempt to “silence him”.
Now, Frankfurt’s administrative court has ruled that Waters can go ahead with the concert.
While acknowledging that aspects of his show were “tasteless” and obviously lent on symbolism inspired by the Nazi regime, it cited artistic freedom among its main reasons for the decision.
City authorities in Frankfurt and elsewhere in Germany had objected to the concert on the grounds that a previous tour had featured as part of the stage show a balloon shaped like a pig depicting the Star of David and various company logos.
Part of their criticism related to the location of the concert in which during the November pogroms of 1938, more than 3,000 Jewish men from Frankfurt and surrounding areas were rounded up, abused and later deported to concentration camps where many of them were murdered.
But the court said that despite his show making use of “symbolism manifestly based on that of the National Socialist regime”, the tastelessness of which it said was exacerbated by the choice of the Festhalle as the venue due to its historical background, the concert should be “viewed as a work of art” and that there were not sufficient grounds on which to justify banning Waters from performing.
The most crucial point, according to the court, was that the musician’s performance “did not glorify or relativise the crimes of the Nazis or identify with Nazi racist ideology”, and nor was there any evidence that Waters used propaganda material in his show.
The city has the right to appeal the decision.
A petition was launched last month to reverse the decision made by Frankfurt City Council, which was signed by the likes of Eric Clapton, Rage Against The Machine‘s Tom Morello and Pink Floyd’s own Nick Mason.
“Waters’ criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is part of his long-term advocacy on behalf of human rights across the globe,” read the description alongside the petition. “The officials vilifying Waters are engaging in a dangerous campaign that purposely conflates criticism of Israel’s illegal and unjust policies with antisemitism.”
It continued: “Officials in Germany, concert organisers, and music platforms must not succumb to the pressure of those individuals and groups who would rather see Waters’ music removed than engage with the issues his music highlights.”
Waters has repeatedly denied accusations of antisemitism and claimed his disdain is towards Israel, not Judaism, accusing Israel of “abusing the term antisemitism to intimidate people like me into silence”.
He has previously defended his use of the pig symbol, saying it “represents Israel and its policies and is legitimately subject to any and all forms of non-violent protest”. He said the balloon also featured other symbols of organisations he was against, such as the crucifix and the logos of Mercedes, McDonald’s and Shell Oil.
A second petition was also launched online, opposing the first.
Last month, Waters kicked off the European leg of his ‘This Is Not A Drill’ farewell tour. He will then come to the UK from May 31, with stops in Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Manchester.