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Rochester Armory bows to public criticism and cancels far-right ReAwaken America tour

The Main Street Armory.
Max Schulte
The Main Street Armory.

ReAwaken America has been put to sleep.

Facing heavy criticism for playing host in August to the traveling circus of right-wing speakers, and despite an email in which he stated, “I believe everyone has the right to their own opinions and beliefs,” Main Street Armory owner Scott Donaldson announced Monday morning that he is cancelling the event.

The indie pop-rock band Japanese Breakfast, nominated for Best New Artist at this spring’s Grammy Awards, put the show in the national spotlight when it announced late last week that it was cancelling its Sept. 27 concert at the Armory.

“We have canceled the event because a number of people reached out letting us know they were boycotting the venue because of the ReAwaken America tour,” Japanese Breakfast lead singer and songwriter Michelle Zauner wrote in a Facebook post. “We were told the event was cancelled and later learned it was secretly still moving forward.”

The Rochester indie rock band Joywave, which has just completed a national tour and has played the venue in the past, quickly jumped on board as well. Front man Daniel Armbruster said the band would not appear at the Main Street Armory again if it went through with ReAwaken America.

“We reached out directly to the Armory and heard nothing back,” Armbruster wrote in a Facebook post. “If the ReAwaken America Tour does take place as scheduled, we will not be playing there in the future. Have heard a few agents behind the scenes feel the same about booking their artists there as well.”

The ReAwaken America Tour, booked for Aug. 12-13 at the Armory, features far-right speakers who advocate on behalf of conspiracies that have been thoroughly debunked, including claims that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax. The extensive roster scheduled for the Rochester shows included former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who called on Trump to declare martial law and “temporarily suspend the Constitution” after Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

Trump confidant -- and nearly ex-con -- Roger Stone was also scheduled to appear. In 2019, he was sentenced to more than three years in prison for lying to Congress, obstructing a House probe into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump 2016 campaign and witness tampering. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence.

Donaldson, who has not commented on the ReAwaken America controversy to local media -- although he did talk to The Washington Post -- added in his email that he hoped future concerts and sporting events would continue to be supported by members of the community, “Apart from the ones who have threatened myself and staff, you are not welcome.”

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.
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