Swifties Show Palestinian Solidarity at Eras Tour

Credit - TIME illustration; Getty Images

When Hadiyyah Mohamed brought out a Palestinian flag during the first Edinburgh show of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour on June 7, she knew that it was unlikely the megastar would see it or her braided bracelet with the colors of the Palestinian flag—her seat was high up in a nosebleed section.

“No one saw except for the people that were really close around me,” Mohamed tells TIME. “It was my way of enjoying a Taylor Swift concert, as well as showing my support and my solidarity for the Palestinians.”

Last month, #SwiftiesForPalestine was trending on X, garnering more than 100,000 posts in about a day, as Swifties used the hashtag to demand that Taylor Swift “Speak Now” on Gaza. The online callout came after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah that killed at least 45 Palestinians sparked outrage around the world.

Some celebrities, such as Ariana Grande, have shared social media posts in support of Palestinian people. Others have been even more vocal in their show of solidarity—Melissa Barrera was fired from her leading role in Scream 7, after she posted in support of Palestinian people; and Kehlani called out their peers in the music industry for remaining silent on the conflict and raised more than $555,000 for families in Gaza, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Macklemore demanded a cease-fire in his song, “Hind’s Hall,” a reference to when protesters took over Hamilton Hall at Columbia University and “renamed” the building for 6-year-old Hind Rajab, who was killed by Israeli troops. But Swift has not publicly spoken out on the conflict.

Read More: Calls to Boycott Celebrities for Silence on the War in Gaza Spark a Debate Over Online Activism

Now, Swifties have taken the online movement to the international leg of the singer’s Eras Tour.  The international leg of the tour started in August 2023, but only recently have fans gained attention for bringing Palestinian flags, kaffiyehs, signs, or friendship bracelets—an Eras Tour tradition—to express support for Palestinians. While Swifties initially wanted to bring these symbols to pressure Swift to speak out in support of Palestinian people—and while many still hope she will—fans also said they were inspired to participate in the trend to raise awareness among other Swifties and concertgoers about the situation in Gaza.

Calling on Swift to “Speak Now”

Earlier on in her career, Swift was known for not posting online or speaking publicly about politics. But in 2018, she broke that silence and endorsed two Democratic candidates in Tennessee. Since then, she endorsed President Joe Biden in the 2020 election and has expressed support for abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. In 2023, after Swift encouraged fans to register to vote via a post on her Instagram story, Vote.org recorded more than 35,000 registrations.

“We can see that her impact is so powerful,” Swiftie Keli Thomson, who lives in Glasgow, says. “It is a shame that she’s not used that platform. I am hoping that she will eventually come around to it.”

Mohamed, 22, has been a Swiftie for as long as she can remember. But now, the lifelong fan criticizes Swift for not speaking out, saying “silence is violence.”

“I am disappointed in Taylor Swift,” Mohamed, who lives in Edinburgh, says. “I still do love Taylor Swift songs and I really do think she’s an amazing artist. But at this point, we need her to speak now. We need her to speak up.”

Swift’s publicist did not return a request for comment.

After Thomson, 30, saw #SwiftiesForPalestine trending on X, she encouraged other fans who were planning to attend the shows in Edinburgh, like she was, to make friendship bracelets and bring Palestinian flags. She wasn’t sure that bringing these items would prompt Swift to speak out, but thought that “it would be a wasted opportunity not to try.”

Thomson went to two shows in Edinburgh earlier this month. On the first night, she was a little disheartened—while she had brought a Palestinian flag, she was too far back from the stage for Swift to see her and ended up just hanging the flag on the back of her chair for most of the night.

“I think the reality of it kicked in when I was there,” Thomson says. “It is obviously much bigger when you get in there and see the amount of people that are there and realize for this to be impactful, we really do need to get more people involved.”

“We weren’t the only ones”

There was a moment that made Thomson hopeful. She had made some friendship bracelets for the concert. Friendship bracelets are an Eras Tour tradition—because Swift mentions “friendship bracelets” in the song “You’re on Your Own, Kid,” fans often show up to her concerts wearing and exchanging bracelets that have references to Swift’s songs.

Thomson had made a few special bracelets—two that said “Free Palestine,” and one that said “Eyes On Rafah.” While waiting in line for food at the concert, she gave one of the “Free Palestine'' bracelets to another Swiftie. The two fans ended up having a “really hopeful conversation” about the conflict in Gaza, Thomson says.

<span class="copyright">Courtesy Lauren Ritchie, Jemima Elliott, Alethea Shapiro, Chelsea Van Noord</span>
Courtesy Lauren Ritchie, Jemima Elliott, Alethea Shapiro, Chelsea Van Noord

For 24-year-old Jemima Elliott, exchanging a bracelet didn’t lead to a conversation, but it still made her night. Elliott, who lives in Newcastle, England, attended the second night of the Eras Tour show in Edinburgh earlier this month, and wore a “Free Palestine” badge on her jacket. She had also made small cardboard signs that said “Swifties 4 A Free Palestine” and “Speak Now For a Free Palestine.”

“It’s really frustrating when there’s someone whose work you really admire and you really love, who kind of has that huge, astronomic level of influence, but doesn’t use that to stand out for things,” Elliott says. Bringing in the signs and wearing the badge “felt like the bare minimum” she could do, she adds.

Another fan noticed Elliott’s “Free Palestine” badge and then gave her a friendship bracelet that said “Speak Now for Gaza.”

“Receiving that friendship bracelet made my absolute night,” Elliott says. “It felt like we weren’t the only ones who were thinking about Gaza, who were wanting Taylor to do better.”

One Swiftie managed to give one of these special friendship bracelets to Swift’s current number one fan: her boyfriend, Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Alethea Shapiro, who lives in Naples, Fla., was at the first London show Friday when she saw Kelce in Wembley Stadium. Shapiro weaved through the crowd to pass a “Swifties For Palestine” bracelet along to the star athlete.

“I really had to seize the moment because it was like the closest we got to Taylor and him, like both of them have very big platforms,” Shapiro, 45, says. “Maybe he passed it along to Taylor.”

Kelce’s publicist did not return a request for comment.

Shapiro went to several Eras Tour shows in the U.S., has been to a show in Lyon, France, and multiple shows in the U.K., including Edinburgh, Liverpool, Cardiff, and London. She started an Instagram account, called @SwiftiesForPalestine, that has about 3,700 followers and shares information about the conflict in Gaza. For many of the shows she’s attended in Europe, she’s brought something—like a flag, a kaffiyeh, or an outfit that includes references to the conflict—to show solidarity with Palestinian people.

“This is the start of something”

It’s not clear when the #SwiftiesForPalestine movement began or who started it—while Swifties have only recently gained attention for it on the European leg of the Eras Tour, a post on X from earlier this year indicates that some Swifties were planning to make friendship bracelets in support of Palestinian people starting with the Melbourne show back in February.

One thing is clear, though: Fans plan to continue doing this for Swift’s upcoming shows.

Shapiro is hoping to attend some of the final London shows in August, and has tickets for shows in Miami and Vancouver in the fall. She hopes that Swifties will continue voicing their support for Palestinian people at each concert.

“If Taylor’s not going to do it, then we can still do something,” Shapiro says. “We can still speak out. And I just think it’s really beautiful that people who are around the world, all different nationalities and races and languages, sexualities, can come together and unify for Palestine.”

Thomson is also planning to go to the last London show in August. And this time, she’s planning on making even more friendship bracelets that express support for Palestinian people.

“It just needs to grow. It just needs a little bit more time,” she says about the movement. “I think this is the start of something.”

Does Swiftie activism bring about change?

This isn’t the first time the Swiftie fandom has galvanized around a political cause. In 2022, thousands of fans banded together to launch an online campaign calling for the breakup of Ticketmaster, after many of them were unable to get tickets to the U.S. leg of the Eras Tour.

After the Ticketmaster fiasco, two political science researchers at the University of Notre Dame started researching Swifties, and found that fans who had a personal experience with the issue of a lack of market competition tended to file reports with the Federal Trade Commission at higher rates. Erin Rossiter, one of the researchers, says that while it’s not clear the extent to which Swifties’ complaints led to the U.S. Department of Justice suing Ticketmaster and its parent company, she and her colleague “like to think and speculate” that this grassroots effort among Swifties “shed light on this issue.”

Their research, which they’re in the process of submitting for peer review, offers some “cautiously optimistic evidence” that people become engaged and take action on political issues that they care about, Rossiter says.

Now, the public is seeing a similar kind of political activism among Swifties with regards to the conflict in Gaza, Rossiter says. While there may be division within the Swiftie community, the fandom is often “interconnected” and “coordinated,” she says.

“This can lend them to be politically motivated as well. They’re very willing to use their time and resources to solve a problem, which is like what we felt with Ticketmaster,” Rossiter says. “This group has a history, and they know how to work together in this way and they’re very good at it.”

And others have noticed this. Volunteers with the Edinburgh Gaza Genocide Emergency Committee (EGGEC)—a coalition of organizations that stand in solidarity with Palestinian people—handed out flyers, friendship bracelets, and Palestinian flags outside of the concert venue in Edinburgh on June 8 to raise awareness among fans heading into the show.

“I think if her fans mobilize and if her fans use their big voices—a lot of them have big social media platforms—if they can use that to raise awareness, then you can mobilize a huge crowd of people and bring awareness into the music industry and into those spaces,” says Ameerah Al, an EGGEC volunteer who handed out flyers and flags on June 8.

When #SwiftiesForPalestine was trending on X, one fan started a GoFundMe, raising nearly $14,000 CAD to go toward Medical Aid for Palestinians, a British organization that offers medical services to those in need. One Swiftie who attended two London shows this past weekend donated the money she would’ve spent on merchandise to Care For Gaza, a nonprofit that helps Palestinian families.

Rossiter points out that Swift herself has not been the leader of these movements—both the action against Ticketmaster and the solidarity campaign for Palestinian people have been fan-led initiatives.

“It doesn’t lessen the disappointment among the fans when she doesn’t say anything, but they are still a very motivated group without her,” Rossiter says.

While Mohamed hopes that Swift will speak out publicly in support of Palestinian people, she isn’t sure that will really happen. On the off chance Swift saw Mohamed waving the flag at the first show in Edinburgh, Mohamed says she “would feel heard.”

“That’s the point, really, for me to wave that flag,” she says. “And it’s not only me—for Palestine to feel heard because for years, it’s been 76 years, their yearnings, their pleas, have been gone unheard of.”

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