Action Bronson might still be playing in Toronto next month, but not on the main stage of NXNE. The music and arts festival announced Friday that the Mr. Wonderful rapper will no longer be playing in the public Yonge-Dundas Square. “A significant number of Torontonians have indicated their desire to have Action Bronson not perform at the Square,” a statement from the festival read. “As annual guests in this space we feel we must accede to the strong wishes of the community and honour their input.”
“We[D1] are not moving the Action show because we believe in censoring him or any other artists,” it continues. “In fact, we find the limiting of artistic expression distasteful. When artistic expression is limited, freedom and the evolution of ideas is often the casualty.”
The festival still wants Bronson to play in Toronto at a ticketed venue “so the public can decide for themselves if his work has merit.”
The rapper was slated to perform on June 21, but faced backlash and a petition asking for his removal from the lineup. “We urge you to stop your support for Action Bronson performing at Yonge and Dundas Square as part of the NXNE music festival,” the petition reads. “The content of his music glorifies raping and murdering women.”
“It demonstrates that NXNE, the City of Toronto, and Vans Footwear turn a blind eye to rape culture and violence against women,” it continues. “He should not be given a voice through the support of any of the aforementioned groups.”
The petition specifically notes two Bronson songs—”Consensual Rape” and “Brunch”—that are around four years old. The MC sent a handful of tweets after the festival’s statement, some of which have also been deleted.
The festival responded to the petition earlier Wednesday. An excerpt: “NXNE believes each and every one of these artists have the right to express their views through music, but those views belong to them and them alone. Those who are offended by an artist are invited to check out other Festival showcases, as NXNE will present hundreds of artists this June—some may be considered controversial, but most are just plain fun.”
The move seemed imminent, especially as Bronson tweeted Wednesday night that he was banned from headlining the festival. But he later deleted the message.
It’s unknown if Bronson will still play in Toronto that weekend. EW‘s request for comment from Bronson’s reps was not immediately returned.