BDS promises the mother of all protests at Williams concert
JTA AND OWN CORRESPONDENT
BDS-SA, the virulently anti-Israel NGO which is demanding that retailer Woolworths be boycotted because of its purported support of Israel by having Israeli products on its shelves, has also targeted Williams who as a Woolworths cultural ambassador is collaborating with the retailer on its “Are You With Us?” campaign.
Williams’ concert takes place tonight (Monday, September 21) at Cape Town’s Grand West Casino and BDS has mobilised its forces to demonstrate against the event. BDS initially applied to the City of Cape Town for permission for 50 000 protesters to congregate outside the venue, but the city granted permission for only 150 protesters to be present and that the protest could only start at 19:00.
A spokesman for the City of Cape Town maintained that the figure of 150 had been agreed upon in consultation with the South African Police Services.
BDS challenged the decision in the Cape Town High Court and the court ruled on Saturday that 16 000 would be allowed to protest. In a media release, BDS hailed it as a major victory.
The Sun International hotel group, owners of Grand West Casino, had launched an urgent court interdict on September 14 to limit the number of protesters outside Williams’ concert, but the group withdrew its court application, due to be heard last Friday, against the local BDS branch.
BDS-SA spokesman Kwara Kekana described Sun International’s decision at the weekend to abandon the court application as an “about-face”, claiming it is “not only a Palestine victory, but… a victory for freedom of expression”.
Pro-Palestine protesters have been agitating against the American pop star since he concluded a promotional deal with Woolworths, due to what BDS considers the company’s trade ties with Israel. Woolworths, however, denies sourcing produce from the West Bank or other disputed territories.
Last month, BDS-SA board member Braam Hanekom said: “[Williams] is about to face the biggest backlash any artist has faced in South Africa in over 30 years, since the days of apartheid. He is walking into a very angry, unhappy environment because he has chosen to walk with Woolworths,” he told Reuters.
Hanekom threatened that protesters may block roads on concert nights or rally inside venues. A second Williams concert is due to take place in Johannesburg.
Kirsten Hewitt, speaking on behalf of Woolworths, said: Woolworths respects the constitutional rights of protesters to express their views lawfully without infringing the right of others.”
Among the groups Kwekara claims will take part in the protest are the ANC and its youth league and Women’s League, the SA Communist Party, the student organisation Sasco and trade union umbrella body Cosatu.
“International mobilisation, mass protests, global boycotts and specifically the cultural and sports boycott against the oppressive and racist apartheid system in South Africa, were used as ways to mobilise huge pressure on the apartheid regime in the 1980s, largely accelerating our struggle towards freedom.
“It is in recognition of the militant and courageous internationalism of the 1980s that we take to the streets today in what will be a historic gathering – expected to be the largest protest event in South African history against any musician or artist,” the BDS release states.