Roger Waters threatens legal action over German concert cancellations
Roger Waters has said he will take legal action against city authorities in Germany over the threatened cancellation of concerts there, after the former Pink Floyd frontman was accused of antisemitism, which he denies.
In February, magistrates in Frankfurt instructed the venue for Waters’ 28 May concert in the city to cancel it, arguing that Waters was “one of the most widely known antisemites” in the world.
Waters has long been an opponent of Israel over its activity in Palestine, describing it as an “apartheid state” that is guilty of “ethnic cleansing”, and supports a cultural boycott of the country. He has long denied antisemitism and claimed that his enmity is with Israel rather than Judaism, and has accused Israel of “abusing the term antisemitism to intimidate people, like me, into silence”.
Frankfurt’s council also highlighted Waters’ historical use of a Star of David emblazoned on a pig prop as part of his stage show. In 2013, Rogers was accused of antisemitism for using the image, but he countered that the pig, which he said represented “evil, and more specifically the evil of errant government”, also featured “the crucifix, the crescent and star, the hammer and sickle, the Shell Oil logo and the McDonald’s sign, a dollar sign and a Mercedes sign … The Star of David represents Israel and its policies and is legitimately subject to any and all forms of non violent protest. To peacefully protest against Israel’s racist domestic and foreign policies is not antisemitic.”
A coalition of parties in Munich’s city council also filed a motion for Waters’ concert at the city’s Olympiahalle on 21 May to be cancelled. A similar motion was tabled in Cologne in February, with management of the concert venue Lanxess Arena claiming “there is currently no legal basis for an extraordinary termination” of Waters’ concert there.
Waters has now instructed the Höcker law firm to resist any concert cancellations. Speaking to the Guardian, the firm’s partner Ralf Höcker explained that they would file interim injunctions against the councils if venues or promoters are instructed to cancel the concerts.
“The city of Munich is wasting taxpayer money on something that cannot be successful,” Höcker said. “The legal situation is really clear and they’re still going forward with this, and that’s unacceptable.” Regarding the injunctions, he said “we’re very optimistic we’ll be successful” if they were filed.
A joint statement from Höcker and Waters’ UK manager reads: “These actions are unconstitutional, without justification, and based upon the false accusation that Roger Waters is antisemitic, which he is not … Mr Waters believes that if this blatant attempt to silence him is left unchallenged it could have serious, far-reaching consequences for artists and activists all over the world.” Tickets are currently still on sale for all of his German tour dates.
The Festhalle venue in Frankfurt, which would host the Waters concert, has a painful history: during the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, it was used to house Jewish men from the area who had been rounded up, before being deported to concentration camps. A plaque was installed in 1991 to commemorate the events there.
As well as continuing his This Is Not a Drill world tour, Waters is preparing the release of a re-recorded version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, made solo without the involvement of his long-estranged bandmates.
Divisions intensified recently when band lyricist Polly Samson accused Waters of being “antisemitic to your rotten core. Also a Putin apologist and a lying, thieving, hypocritical, tax-avoiding, lip-synching, misogynistic, sick-with-envy, megalomaniac” – allegations Waters denied.
Waters has been criticised more widely for his characterisation of the conflict in Ukraine, after calling it a “proxy war” that was “not unprovoked”, and claiming that Nazis were “in control of the [Ukraine] government”.