'They’re trying to cancel me like they canceled Corbyn, Assange'

After backlash and under German probe, Roger Waters drops Nazi costume at UK concert

Comparison between killed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, Anne Frank also left out of Birmingham show; says he’s ‘pissed off’ at ‘antisemitism bullshit,’ blames Tel Aviv

A projection labeling former US president George W. Bush a war criminal and accusing him of lying about his country's invasion of Iraq, at a Roger Waters concert in Birmingham, the United Kingdom, May 31, 2023. (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A projection labeling former US president George W. Bush a war criminal and accusing him of lying about his country's invasion of Iraq, at a Roger Waters concert in Birmingham, the United Kingdom, May 31, 2023. (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Roger Waters did not sport a costume resembling an SS officer and omitted a controversial comparison between Israel and the Nazis at his Birmingham concert Wednesday, after attracting criticism and sparking a German police probe for such acts during previous legs of the tour.

Ahead of the concert — the first in his tour of the United Kingdom — the Lord Mayor of Birmingham Chaman Lal passed on concerns raised by the National Jewish Assembly over content at the former Pink Floyd frontman’s shows to owners of the city’s Utilita Arena. He also informed “relevant cabinet ministers.”

Waters appeared to dress as a Nazi during a concert in Berlin in late May. At concerts in Berlin and Munich, he projected Anne Frank’s name alongside that of Palestinian-American Shireen Abu Akleh — an Al Jazeera journalist killed on an assignment in the West Bank last year — to draw comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany.

The NJA on Friday thanked Lal after the stunts were not included in the Birmingham show. Anne Frank’s image was displayed at the gig, alongside bombed-out buildings and images of US presidents labeled as “war criminals.”

Waters complained at the Wednesday concert he was “pissed off” about the recent “antisemitism bullshit” that has followed him since his Berlin show.

“They’re trying to cancel me like they canceled Jeremy Corbyn and Julian Assange,” he said, comparing himself to the far-left former Labour leader who was accused of ignoring antisemitism in party ranks, and the jailed WikiLeaks founder.

Roger Waters on stage in Berlin, May 2023 (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the copyright law)

“If you’re one of those ‘I love Pink Floyd but I can’t stand Roger’s politics’ people, then you might do well to fuck off to the bar,” Waters told the crowd.

The criticism of his anti-Israel stance “all comes from Tel Aviv,” Waters claimed, and labeled MP Christian Wakeford — who has called for venues to block his performances — “a wanker.”

Roger Waters performs at Barclays Arena in Hamburg, Germany, on Sunday, May 7, 2023, to kick off his “This Is Not A Drill” tour of Germany. (Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa via AP)

Waters is set to play in Glasgow Friday and Saturday night, before moving on to London next week.

The former frontman played in several German cities in recent weeks as part of his “This Is Not A Drill” tour. But it was hugely controversial with some city officials even trying, unsuccessfully, to ban him from performing.

Images on social media of Waters wearing a long, black coat with red armbands on stage and waving a mock weapon at the Mercedes-Benz arena in Berlin sparked an uproar, leading police to probe him for incitement to hatred and Germany’s official in charge of fighting antisemitism calling for him to be held accountable.

Police confirmed that an investigation was opened over suspicions that the context of the costume could constitute a glorification, justification, or approval of Nazi rule and therefore a disturbance of the public peace. Wearing or display of symbols evoking the Nazi era is a crime in Germany.

Additionally, Waters’ on-screen projections — which argued that Abu Akleh was killed for “being Palestinian” — drew ire and condemnation that Waters was relativizing the Holocaust.

A woman holds a sign as she takes part in a protest against a Roger Waters concert later in the day in the Festhalle, Frankfurt, Germany, May 28, 2023. (AP/Michael Probst)

The Israeli army has acknowledged that the bullet that killed her was “in very high likelihood” shot from an IDF gun, although it has firmly rejected allegations that the veteran journalist was deliberately targeted.

Waters has dismissed the criticism and the controversy against him as politically motivated.

His concerts in Munich and Frankfurt drew demonstrations by Jewish and local groups. In Frankfurt, a protester rushed the stage at his performance on Sunday, waving an Israeli flag and managing to reach the upper deck while running from security.

Groups of protesters dispersed in the crowd also waved large Israeli flags in what appeared to be a coordinated response to Waters’ latest controversy.

Waters is a well-known pro-Palestinian activist who has been accused of holding anti-Jewish views. He has floated an inflatable pig emblazoned with the Star of David at his concerts.

Last year, the Polish city of Krakow canceled gigs by Waters because of his sympathetic stance toward Russia in its war against Ukraine.

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