By Siobhan Elizabeth Ball

Thousands of video recordings have been circulating on global news platforms and various social media sites illuminating the reality of the tragic event which unfolded at American rapper, Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston, Texas on 5th November.

Questions began to mount immediately after the news broke, asking why Travis Scott continued to perform after first responders could be seen dealing with the mass casualties. The Houston Chronicle has studied and reviewed video footage and social media to uncover festivalgoers had started to be in danger by 9:36 pm. Yet, video coverage of the event shows Scott completing his set which finished at 10:15 pm, 39 minutes after the disaster was made first made apparent.

An attendee of the festival using the Instagram handle @SeannaFaith gave a harrowing account of how cries for help were drowned out by the performance as “the rush of people became tighter and tighter…breathing became something only a few were capable. The rest were crushed or unable to breathe in the thick hot air”. Seanna’s brave and heroic efforts are shown in phone camera footage as she stormed a camera platform screaming “someone’s dying in there!”, only to be ignored and threatened by festival staff. This lack of humanity and ignorance from the event organisers has resulted in the death of 10 people including a nine-year-old boy, Ezra Blount.

Travis Scott and Canadian rapper, Drake have now been slapped with an estimated $750 million lawsuit on behalf of over 125 attendees accusing the organisers of the festival of being guilty of gross negligence. The Blount family are amongst the 125 attendees who are also filing a lawsuit against the rapper and the event’s organisers Live Nation. Father of nine-year-old Ezra has revealed how he initially became a fan of Scott through his association with the online video game Fortnite, that promotes violence, and his partnership with McDonalds. Scott’s collaborations with these companies highlights his questionable position as a role model for minors and makes you ask why a rapper known for expletive lyrics and promoting violence has been allowed to advertise himself to minors, which in this case has led to the tragic deaths of 10 people. Evidence of Scott’s previous controversies have come to light following this tragedy as in 2018 he pleaded guilty to a public disorder charge after an accusation was made that he had encouraged people at a concert in Arkansas to rush the stage. Attorney Tony Buzbee, who is defending many of festivalgoers has alleged that Scott “glorifies violence and other dangerous behaviours” which can be seen in video footage of the rapper crowd surfing at a previous event where he can be clearly heard to be chanting “F**k him up!” into the audience referencing a concertgoer who was attempting to swipe Scott’s footwear.

Scott now has a bitter pill to swallow with millions lobbying for him to be held accountable and as countless footage of past events of a similar nature have circulated,  showing the correct way to handle any incidents and how to take responsibility for the wellbeing of the audience. Celebrities who take the audience’s wellbeing serious include the frontman of The 1975 Matty Healy who has been seen instructing an audience to part down the middle to allow for medical attention to reach the afflicted. However, acknowledgement that Astroworld is not the only tragedy of its kind is important to consider. But mass casualties at events in the past have been rare enough that when they have happened, they have gone down in history; The Who in Cincinnati in 1979, Pearl Jam at Roskilde in 2000, Germany’s Love Parade in 2010 and the Manchester Arena Bombing in 2017. Majority of events proceed without anything like those levels of tragedy which is down to a collective of vigilance and preparation between the organisers of the events, security personnel, health and safety officers all the way to the people who look out for others when a mosh pit goes south.

Scott has made several statements following the incident imploring the families of those impacted by the night’s events to get in touch via email and a statement shared by his team has suggested that “he is distraught by the situation and desperately wishes to share his condolences and provide aid to them as soon as possible but wants to remain respectful of each family’s wishes on how they’d best like to be connected”. This followed news that Scott has claimed he would pay for the funeral costs of the victims and has organised a partnership with the counselling app BetterHelp to provide online therapy and counselling for those in need of support. This feels like a kick in the teeth for the victims and their families as his decision to act responsibly after the fact is a little too late.

The tragic events of November 5th begs the question; whether Travis Scott should be held accountable for what happened that night?

Photo Credit: Alexander Londoño via Unsplash