Pharrell Williams protest goes to court

Concert organisers have turned to the Western Cape High Court to quash a planned protest of up to 40 000 people at US star Pharrell Williams’ Grand West concert on Monday.

Palestinian rights movement, BDS, is fighting back and this morning launched an urgent court application to proceed with their anti-Woolworths march.

BDS is planning “the largest protest any artist has faced in South Africa since the dawn of democracy” and said they would start busing activists to the concert venue from 3pm.

The movement is targeting the Happy singer’s South African tour as he is an ambassador for Woolworths, which they say stocks products from Israel.

Woolworths has in the past responded by saying that other local retail franchises stock products from Israel too.

However BDS national coordinator Muhammed Desai insisted that the protest was justified – and that it would be peaceful.

“We want to give people an opportunity to be on the right side of history,” he told journalists at a press briefing in Cape Town today.

Desai said they applied to Cape Town’s city council for a permit to accommodate 50 000 protestors – but were granted a permit for only 150.

He said after consulting with safety and town planning experts, BDS decided to compromise and settle for 40 000 attending protestors.

He said they expected the Western Cape High Court to deliver a verdict on the march tomorrow morning.

Rallying behind the cause was ANC Women’s League provincial convener Dorothy Gopie, who said: “We can’t keep quiet when women and children are getting killed.”

The provincial secretary of trade union federation Cosatu, Tony Ehrenreich, told journalists that Woolworths, Grand West and the City of Cape Town “are conspiring to undermine BDS’s progressive agenda for Palestinian people”.

Terry Crawford-Browne, of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, lashed out at Woolworths for trading with Israel – which he equated to money-laundering – adding that the situation in Palestine made apartheid look like a picnic.

Bram Hanekom of the Young Communist League of South Africa added: “We believe Woolworths is about to make a R200-million marketing blunder by bringing Pharrell to South Africa.”

In a statement BDS said it had tried to negotiate with Williams to no avail.

“Williams is performing in Israel in violation of the cultural boycott before he arrives in South Africa. BDS South Africa has previously written a five-page letter to Williams urging the artist to cancel his Israeli gig plans and delay his collaboration with Woolworths till it ends its Israeli trade. BDS South Africa even offered to fly and meet with Pharrell Williams to discuss the issue. Williams has refused to respond to the letter,” it said.  

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