While 60 pro-Palestinian activists were arrested and detained in Johannesburg on Saturday, another 13 demonstrators were locked in at Woolworths in Blue Route Mall in Tokai for similar protest action. The group were participating in the National Day of Action against Woolworths, which forms part of a national boycott against the retailer for its trade links with Israel. Customers were evacuated when management’s attempts to persuade protesters to stop had failed.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s, Martin Jansen told VOC News that he and eleven others were conducting a “die-in” protest – a symbolic protest showing how thousands of Palestinians have died at the hands of the Israeli occupation.
“We were lying down and chanting our slogans while raising the Palestinian flag high. We could clearly tell that customers were annoyed at us being there. Management had asked us to stop but we reiterated that we will only stop our action when Israel stops its occupation,” Jansen said.
As the protesters continued their action, Jansen said eight armed police officials arrived on the scene.
“Customers were evacuated and we were taken to the storage room where police told us that what we were doing was wrong. We told them that it is our right to protest against human rights violations. They then threatened to file charges of disturbing the peace against us. I have little faith that that will in fact happen,” he added.
Jansen expressed his concern for the lack of support the South African community has shown Palestine in recent months. He said that previous actions drew crowds of almost 200 000 in Cape Town.
“People only want to come out when Gaza is being bombed. We want the public to know that each and every day, Palestinians are having their basic human rights violated. Woolworths board members are well aware of the struggle during apartheid yet they continue to ignore our calls to end stocking Israeli products,” Jansen added.
Activists believe the demonstration itself was a major success for the campaign as they managed to shut all trading at the retailer for an effective two hours. No demonstrators were arrested but Jansen said their details were recorded by police.
Woolworth’s management allegedly demanded that the activists give up their filmed footage before the police arrested them. Woolworths was unavailable for comment. VOC