Pharrell Williams can’t avoid Palestine protest in South Africa, judge rules

Pharrell Williams has been accused of indifference to the Palestinians’ plight. (Thomas Hawk/Flickr)

American pop singer Pharrell Williams will not be able to avoid a large Palestinian rights protest in South Africa, a judge has ruled.

Last week, the “Happy” singer’s promoters Sun International asked a court to limit a planned protest near the Grand West Casino in Cape Town where he is due to perform on Monday.

Williams has been the target of protests because of his endorsement deal with Woolworths, a national retailer that stocks Israeli goods.

His visit to South Africa is part of his collaboration with Woolworths.

Unconstitutional

The promoters later withdrew the court action, but the City of Cape Town itself imposed a limit of just 150 protesters.

On Saturday, the Western Cape High Court found that this limit was unconstitutional, according to a statement from protest organizers BDS South Africa and the National Coalition 4 Palestine.

Judge Siraj Desai ruled that the protest could include up to 16,000 people, public broadcaster SABC reported.

“This is a good day for the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement, Palestine solidarity and for the hard-won freedoms that our fathers and mothers fought for,” BDS South Africa said.

“Freedom of expression, the right to assembly and the right to protest are rights of us South Africans that Woolworths, Grand West Casino, the City of Cape Town and Pharrell Williams cannot play with.”

The planned protest is part of the #BoycottWoolworths campaign calling on the company to end its relations with Israel.

The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) is the latest group to announce that it will be joining the protest.

In an open letter, COSAS urged Williams “to be on the right side of history and join an increasing chorus of international artists who support the Palestinian fight against Israeli injustice and oppression.”

COSAS expressed dismay that Williams would come to South Africa as a guest of Woolworths “knowing how angry South Africans are at your complicity through Woolworths in the erasure of Palestinian human rights and dignity.”

BDS South Africa is promising that Pharrell Williams will encounter “the largest protest any artist would have faced since the end of Apartheid.”

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“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

― Nelson Mandela

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.