A demonstrator wears a shirt reading 'Boycott Israel' [File].
(photo credit: AFP/ MOHD RASFAN)
LONDON – British multinational security services G4S plc had its annual general meeting at London’s ExCeL Exhibition Center disrupted for the second year running by anti-Israel demonstrators.
This despite extra security measures being taken including the confiscation of mobile phones and other electronic devices after pictures of the previous year’s protest were given publicity.
The annual meeting on Thursday was patrolled by “uniformed and plainclothes security staff” who “intervened frequently,” The Guardian
reported. Nine “activists” were “bundled out” over protests about the firm’s operations in Israel.
Protesters who gained entrance to the meeting by buying G4S shares were said to have been removed “violently” at the 2014 general meeting after raising complaints about the company supplying equipment to Israeli prisons. Video footage of that protest was said to be the main reason extra security was put in place for this year’s meeting.
All attending were required to leave their electronic devices in lockers before passing through airport style security which included putting jackets through a scanner and being frisked by guards.
– which was the only national UK newspaper to cover the event – said that the company’s “supply of security and screening equipment to the Israeli security services” dominated a meeting where only a small number of questions from the floor focused on G4S’s financial performance.
G4S chairman John Connolly began the meeting by making clear that attempts to disrupt the “proper conduct” of the session would not be tolerated.
Minutes later, a protester was carried out after she threw what were described as shredded photographs of teenagers being held in Israeli prisons.
As she was evicted by three “guards,” she shouted, “Stop hurting me, this is what you do to Palestinian prisoners in Israel all the time.”
G4S’s CEO Ashley Almanza was challenged as to when the company would be ending its contracts in Israel; previously it had been announced that G4S would not seek to renew the contracts when they lapse in 2017.
He responded that all G4S activity was in compliance with international law, adding that “we do not employ people at any of these facilities.”
Protesters called on G4S to sever ties with Israel immediately.
Ryvka Barnard, spokeswoman for anti-poverty campaign group War on Want, said: “Their vague commitments serve only to distract from their continued failure to uphold their legal and ethical responsibilities,” to which Connolly replied that they would have bigger reputational problems if the company started to end contracts early.
Throughout the two-hour meeting, protesters interrupted regularly, with some wearing masks representing Palestinian teenagers who are being held in Israeli prisons.
On one occasion, 10 security guards moved two men who started to chant: “Who supports the siege in Gaza? G4S does.”
One of the men, Alex Martin, later told the Guardian that he wanted to protest against the company’s actions and that his questions had not been answered adequately.
According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign website, the PSC Chairman Hugh Lanning and one of PSC’s executive members, Salim Alam, put pressure on the G4S executives to reveal when in 2017 the contracts would end, and were told by Almanza that it was “impossible” to give an exact month, but he repeated an assurance that G4S was “not looking currently” at entering into any further contracts in Israel or the West Bank.
The PSC claimed that G4S provides security systems to prisons within Israel and in the West Bank where Palestinians, including minors, are held, often without charge or trial, and that the company also provides equipment and maintenance services to Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank which severely restrict Palestinian freedom of movement.
Lanning said it was the third year running that they were putting the heat on G4S at its annual general meeting. “Meanwhile, the company continues to lose security contracts around the world as a result of campaigning by human rights activists. G4S must understand that it cannot profit from the Israeli occupation without feeling the consequences,” he said.