Campaigners staged a sit-in demonstration at the central London offices of security company G4S yesterday afternoon to protest the company’s supply of services and equipment to Israeli prisons and checkpoints, including the Erez checkpoint that forms part of Israel’s siege on Gaza.
About 10 minutes into the demonstration, staff started streaming out of the building from the offices above the ground floor occupation. It seems that G4S sent its staff home early and that it was G4S employees that filed past demonstrators to shouts of “Who supports the siege on Gaza? G4S does! G4S does!” Several activists locked themselves together using plastic tubes. The protesters were removed by police after an hour.
Many ways to take action
A Danish bank, several major Danish NGOs and a UK energy supplier have all dropped their links with G4S after pressure from campaigners. The EU declined to renew a contract with G4S following a campaign supported by members of the European Parliament. Students at Edinburgh University in Scotland voted to block the union’s contract with G4S and students at Oslo university in Norway are campaigning for the university not to renew its contract with the security company when it expires in February 2014.
Israel’s current attack on Gaza is only made possible by the support it receives from companies such as G4S and governments around the world. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has proven successful in targeting international support for Israeli crimes against Palestinians by causing economic damage to companies that support Israel’s crimes or by persuading artists not to perform in Israel, for example.
The horrors being inflicted on Gaza serve as a powerful reminder of the need to not only show solidarity but to take steps aimed at ending international support for Israeli apartheid. Calls to end the arms trade with Israel and campaigns against companies that participate in Israel’s crimes are more important than ever.
Here’s the press release from last night’s action:
More than 50 campaigners for Palestinian human rights occupied the central London offices of G4S today in protest over the British-Danish security company’s supply of equipment used to maintain Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza.
The protesters entered the building in Victoria at 4pm and staged a sit in protest and 4 people locked themselves together. Police removed the protesters after an hour.
“By providing equipment and services to the checkpoints that enforce the closure of Gaza, which includes severe restrictions in movement of people and basic goods, G4S is helping Israel to engineer a humanitarian crisis for Palestinians. G4S is an active accomplice to Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza,” said Bob Williamson.
More than 105 Palestinians including 23 children have been killed since Israel launched its assault in Gaza last week, and more than 800 more have been injured. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights has accused Israel of war crimes including the direct targeting of civilians and civilian buildings and indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.
G4S, which gained notoriety over its failure to provide security personnel to the Olympics, provides body scanners to the Erez checkpoint in Gaza, which serves as part of the Israeli closure policy over the Gaza Strip. G4S announced the deal on the front page of the website of its Israeli subsidiary.
“The Israeli government has been proven to have purposefully restricted food deliveries to Gaza in order to, as one Israeli official put it, ‘put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger’. Why is G4S participating in these gross human rights violations?” added Maham Hashmi.
G4S has contracts with various Israeli agencies to provide equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints, businesses in illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.
G4S also has a contract with the Israeli Prison Service to provide services and equipment to prisons to which Palestinian political prisoners, including children, are held in violation of international law and subjected to mistreatment and torture.
Israel is forbidden to transfer Palestinian prisoners from occupied territories to prisons inside Israel by Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Despite this, thousands of Palestinian prisoners are unlawfully held in prisons inside Israel that are supplied by G4S.
Campaigners have also raised concerns with G4S’ track record of human rights abuses in the UK. The company lost its contract to deport people from the UK last September after 773 complaints of abuse were made against the company and following the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan asylum seeker who died after being “restrained” by G4S guards. G4S has also been criticized for it’s mishandling of asylum housing contracts in Yorkshire and spying on unemployed people it was supposed to be helping back to work.
G4S also runs huge parts of the Lincolnshire police force and hopes to win government contracts to run police, immigration, welfare and prisons services in the coming months.
“How can the UK government give lucrative public contracts to a company that shows such disregard for basic human rights standards across all of its business activities?” asked Maham Hashmi.
And some photos, courtesy of Mirror Images Photos: