Protesters gathering outside Grand West Arena in Cape Town to protest Woolworths-organised Pharrell Williams concert.

Protesters gather outside Grand West Arena in Cape Town to protest Woolworths-organized Pharrell Williams concert. (Sept. 21, 2015)

*Several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators on Monday staged a protest against Pharrell Williams outside a venue where he was holding a Woolworths-backed concert in Cape Town, South Africa.

Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign were protesting his partnership with Woolworths over its imports from Israel.

The South African branch of the BDS movement had planned to hold “the largest protest any artist would have faced since the end of apartheid” at Pharrell’s concert at Cape Town’s Grand West Casino. But ultimately just under 1,000 protesters came out to chant “Down Pharrell Williams Down,” “Free Palestine” and “Israel is apartheid.”

“We are saying to Pharrell and Woolworths: Choose to be on the right side of history,” said Muhammed Desai, national coordinator of BDS.

The #PharrellProtest – as it was called on social media – was part of a year-long boycott against the major South African retail chain.

Desai said multiple attempts had been made to contact Williams and his media team to prevent the protest.

“We were willing to meet with him, fly to wherever he needed to be. But he refused to speak to us.”

BDS waved signs reading “Pharrell don’t support child murderers,” “Boycott Pharrell” and “Boycott Apartheid,”
Earlier this year, Pharrell became Woolworths’ new style director “in a ground-breaking collaboration across a series of sustainability-focused projects,” the retailer said.

BDS accuses Woolworths of importing Israeli agricultural produce grown in the occupied Palestinian territories, a charge the company denies. It says less than 0.1 percent of its food products are sourced from Israel, and the imports comply fully with South African government guidelines.

BDS said that if Pharrell wanted to make the world “happy”, he should join “the growing list of artists from Stevie Wonder to Lauryn Hill, Alice Walker, Roger Waters and others who have backed the non-violent BDS movement.”