The Action Forum in support of Palestine has vowed to press ahead with its campaign of protesting outside the stores of local retailer Woolworths, despite the arrest of four of its members at a picket at the Cavendish Square branch over the weekend. Charges against the protesters were dropped on Monday due to insufficient evidence.
Woolworths has faced the brunt of a crippling campaign by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDS SA), over its continued stocking of fresh produce from the occupied territories in Israel. After several months of intense protests, Woolworths managed to obtain a court order against the group, barring any further protests in its stores.
The four were arrested after being suspected of being in contravention of the BDS court order, as well as on charges of intimidation and trespassing. Charges were however dropped on Monday before the suspects could appear before a judge at the Wynberg Magistrates Court.
“They had no leg to stand on. On the other charges of intimidation and other things, they had no witnesses that came forward,” explained Wafaa Abdurahmaan, chairperson of the Action Forum for Palestine.
Although Woolworths had sought to get some of the security present at the time of the incident to provide statements, a lack of evidence meant that this did not come to fruition.
Addressing the protest itself, Abdurahmaan stated that whilst the majority of the picketers had chosen to voice their displeasure against the retailer outside the store, the four in question had taken to walking through the store with posters in hand. This was in stark contrast to Woolworth’s suggestions that staff and costumers were hassled, and business operations directly impacted by the protests.
“As they were coming into the store they were accosted by the management and security of Woolworths,” she stated.
With the festive season a money-spinner for the retailer, she promised that the forum would “not lie low”, and would intensify its campaign in the coming weeks. Furthermore, they would also consider pressing charges against Woolworths over illegal arrest and intimidation.
“We are in consultation with our legal team, and we are hoping to file some charges very soon,” she said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)