Palestine protesters ready to tackle Pharrell Williams concert

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Unlike his hit song Happy suggests, American singer Pharrell Williams should be afraid, warned protesters yesterday after a court ruled that thousands of them could gather outside his concert tomorrow (MONDAY).

Williams is being flown to South African by local retailer Woolworths, which he collaborates with on a number of products sold at its stores.

Activists supporting Palestinian rights celebrated their victory over the City of Cape Town on the steps of the Western Cape High Court yesterday. The court ruled they could increase their protest from 150 people to 16,000 outside the GrandWest Arena where American singer Pharrell Williams will perform on Monday. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Activists supporting Palestinian rights celebrated their victory over the City of Cape Town on the steps of the Western Cape High Court yesterday. The court ruled they could increase their protest from 150 people to 16,000 outside the GrandWest Arena where American singer Pharrell Williams will perform on Monday. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

But protesters from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa, which has targeted Woolworths for selling Israeli goods, are not happy with Williams.

They wanted him to cancel his partnership with Woolworths and as a result plan to protest outside his concert at GrandWest Arena in Goodwood tomorrow night.

City of Cape Town officials had granted them the right to protest but said only 150 could gather at the GrandWest exit.

BDS took the matter to the Western Cape High Court, requesting an increase to 16,000 protesters as well as the right to protest at the GrandWest entrance.

The court’s judge Siraj Desai yesterday ruled the city had acted unconstitutionally by limiting protest numbers.

“It is inconsistent with the constitution and invalid,” said Desai.

“The protest gathering shall be limited to 16,000 participants, including marshals… The City of Cape Town is to pay the costs of the applicant (BDS).”

Desai granted protesters the right to gather at the GrandWest entrance.

After the court adjourned, BDS lawyer Kevin Kiewitz yesterday accused the city of trying to “stifle freedom of expression”.

He said city officials intentionally wanted the protest at the exit where it “would have had no impact… Nobody would see it”.

BDS protesters won the right to station themselves from the traffic light where cars drive towards the GrandWest entrance as well as just past it on the venue’s premises.

BDS national spokesperson Kwara Kekana said they wanted to raise awareness about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

“We are encouraging everybody to come,” she said.

Kekana added: “It’s very worrying that the city would go out of its way to put the interest of business above that of people. It should have promoted constitutional rights.”

Anti-corruption campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne was also at the court yesterday and said the city’s action was “totally irrational”.

“There is a huge amount of business pressure on governments. The question is who is funding the Democratic Alliance (which runs the city),” he claimed.

“Business is funding this party. Woolworths and Sun International, which owns GrandWest, are presumably part of it. We need political parties to disclose their funders.”

Crawford-Browne said Williams should “cancel his South African tour because he was fraudulently hoodwinked by Woolworths in its effort to blunt the BDS campaign”.

“Williams now urgently needs to do some damage control to his international reputation,” said Crawford-Browne.

Bram Hanekom, national committee member of the Young Communist League of South Africa, said as he exited the court that protesters were “angry at Pharrell for trying to stop us from expressing ourselves”.

“Palestinian protesters will go ahead in full force. Pharrell must be afraid,” said Hanekom.

“Woolworths is turning Pharrell into a global ambassador for the BDS campaign’s cultural boycott of Israel.

“Wherever he goes now, human rights protesters will know he supports Israel, until he apologises for going to perform there. And for coming to South Africa to promote Woolworths.”

Hanekom added: “He is going to become the skunk of the music world.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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