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Photo by Mark Horton, courtesy of Bluesfest.

At Bluesfest, The Cult proclaim “All Lives Matter”

By Lee Pepper on July 11, 2016

Many Bluesfest attendees on Saturday were hurt and surprised by comments made by Ian Astbury, lead singer of The Cult, a British rock group known for gothy 1980s hits like “She Sells Sanctuary”.

There were cheers from the crowd when Astbury shouted “All lives matter” from the stage, but the comment was quickly disseminated over Twitter, with many attendees, particularly people of colour, commenting that the comments, and the seemingly positive reaction from the crowd, made them feel less safe at Bluesfest.

One attendee commented by email, on condition of anonymity:

When The Cult says, “All Lives Matter – it is not a race thing, it is a people thing. Don’t sell guns to idiots” ignores a few other contextual aspects of #BlackLivesMatter in this circumstance:
a. The Cult performed very soon after Alton, Philando, Dallas, and even PrideTO as controversies regarding Black Lives Matter and other disenfranchised people. In all of these controversies, disenfranchised people of colour demanded acknowledgment that these issues have inherent and explicit ties to race. The innocent and liberal guise of All Lives Matter is seductive and seems inclusive, but is viciously ignorant.
b. #BlackLivesMatter also directly responds to disproportionate police violence towards racialized and other disenfranchised people. Not all violence is performed with guns. The discussion of firearms acquisition is important and in many ways tied to Black Lives Matter. But Black Lives Matter (and, by extension, Black lives) should not be reduced to guns. Black Lives Matter fights institutional (and institutionalized and naturalized) violence.
c. Recent public proponents of “All Lives Matter” have incited hateful and often violent attitudes and responses towards disenfranchised people and #BlackLivesMatter proponents generally. 

The Black Lives Matter movement was started by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza following the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. The slogan “All Lives Matter”, as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, is seen as diminishing or silencing efforts to draw attention to the particular ways that Black individuals in the United States and elsewhere face violence, criminalization, and poverty.  As the BLM founders put it, “We’re not saying Black lives are more important than other lives, or that other lives are not criminalized and oppressed in various ways.  We remain in active solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for their liberation and we know that our destinies are intertwined.”

The Cult later apologized for their comments on Twitter:

However, in the eyes of many, the damage had already been done.

The person who shared their comments with us by email added:

I made very vocal and criticisms on Twitter, which were both relatively well-supported and opposed (I don’t have many followers). Within 24-hours, The Cult apologized on Twitter. I accepted and thanked The Cult for their apology. What was frustrating, however, is following their apology, because I was mentioned in it, I and everyone else mentioned were subject to a lot of disturbing and sometimes racist remarks. There was a lot of ignorant statements as well, but the barrage of racist remarks led a few to criticize The Cult again. A while later, they issued a warning to fans for using racist or violent language (in which we were not mentioned). They, then, linked a quick read about why so many people are offended by All Lives Matter. 
I received that latter link very well and with sincerity (again, not explicitly mentioned). Still disappointed in The Cult, but I was impressed with their reaction – especially considering “racism” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to PoCs as it does to non-PoCs. Fortunately, we also received a ton of support, including from The Cult.