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‘We were manhandled’, claim activists

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Four pro-Palestinian activsts arrested while protesting inside the Woolworths store in Cavendish Square on Saturday  were allegedly “manhandled” by the store’s security and management. Three men and one woman, members of the Action Forum for Palestine (AFFP), were taken to a basement and escorted to the Claremont police station. The activists said they were not picketing as members of BDS South Africa, who were handed a court interdict banning them from protesting at schools.

“We have our normal weekend picketing protesting outside Woolworths stores and we are quite aware that there is an interdict out for BDS, in which they have been refrained from staging any form of protest or picketing in front or inside of any Woolworths stores,” said AFFP executive member, Ansar Salie

Salie said that the four spent the night at the police station without being charged and were only charged on Sunday at approximately 10:30am. Western Cape police spokesperson Andre Traut confirmed the arrests and stated that the group will make their court appearance at the Wynberg Magistrates court on Monday at 9am.

Salie has urged members of the community to come out in their numbers in full support.

Meanwhile BDS SA said its #BoycottWoolworths campaign continues, however this time they have opeted for a softer form of protest called “till-jams”. Till jams sees activists taking a trolley filled with Israeli goods and educating cashiers and shoppers at the checkout counter about the boycott campaign.

Desai said a number of stores have been forced to close temporarily while others have been brought to a complete standstill.

“Stores affected since the beginning of the busy December period include Woolworths stores in Mafikeng, Port Elizabeth, Centurion, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and elsewhere across the country,” said Desai.

Desai has also called for the release of the group that were arrested stating, adding that the group does not form part of BDS.

Woolworths responded to the new #BoycottWoolworths campaign by stating that it has been business as usual for the company. The retailer said there had been short-lived and isolated protests outside a few stores, but that none of its stores were closed as a result of protests over the weekend.

“We have continued to work with local authorities to protect the rights of our customers and our employees during the isolated protests,” the company stated. VOC (Imogen Vollenhoven)

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