The last week has seen Grand West Casino on the backfoot at protest group, BDS SA, announced that it will organise one of the largest protests the country has ever seen, should the casino group continue its plan to bring Pharrell Williams to South Africa. Pharrell, who is one of the most well-known and beloved vocal artists in the world, is planning to start his South African tour on 21 September, after a brief stint in Israel, but the protest group, also known as Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in SA, has publicly stated that should the concert go ahead, it will do so under the shadow of the largest protest the country has seen “since the dawn of democracy.”
The group has already risen to popularity for its boycotting of Woolworths (using the hashtag #BoycottWoolworths), the food retailer that is well known for importing Israeli produced foods. Now, Woolworths, as a part producer of the concerts, is taking even more heat from the group and has sought the help of the Cape High Court. In an urgent application on Tuesday to try and stop the protests, Woolworths had stated that these will damage not only Pharrell’s reputation, but will bring about massive financial loss for both the retailer and Grand West Casino.
BDS SA had written a letter of five pages to Pharrell, in which the group urged him to cancel the Israel leg of his tour. Additionally, the group asked Williams to consider delaying his Woolworths collaboration until the retailer stopped its Israel imports. Williams has done neither.
The group was granted a court directive on Saturday stating that it can amass 40 000 protesters at the concert and the court action brought by the group will need to be paid for by the City of Cape Town. A representative of the group has stated that the right to freedom of expression, assembly and protest have all be upheld, but the Jewish Board of Deputies has made the case that the group’s stance is equivalent to unbridled anti-Semitism. A number of Facebook users have also made public posts about the protests, stating that they don’t feel safe in a country in which one group can have a court-mandated right to attack another group due to differences in religion.
As for both Woolworths and GrandWest Casino, neither has backed out of the concert and though there are concerns about the safety of attendees, the concerts will go ahead as planned. There has been no word from Pharrell about his view on the protests or, whether he has even considered cancelling his SA concerts, but those who have bought tickets are making public their excitement about attending, protests or no protests. Read our Grand West Casino Review