“Boycott Tour” demands justice and liberation during Vancouver Palestine Action Week

On Wednesday, 6 October, activists marched through downtown Vancouver, Canada, as part of the Boycott Tour, drawing attention to the complicity of corporations, universities and government institutions in Canada in the ongoing colonization, occupation and apartheid throughout occupied Palestine.

The march took place as part of Palestine Action Week, five days of collective action in solidarity with Palestinians and their fight for liberation, and against settler-colonialism, apartheid, and imperialist violence. Palestine Action Week was organized by a coalition of Vancouver-area groups, including Palestinian Youth Movement, National Students for Justice in Palestine, Canada Palestine Association, UBC Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, SFU Students for Justice in Palestine, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, BDS Vancouver, Anti-racism coalition Vancouver, Independent Jewish Voices, Rise SFU, Sulong UBC, and the Caucus.

Protesters gathered outside London Drugs, a large Canadian drugstore chain that, among other products, markets SodaStream (created in an Israeli occupation factory exploiting Palestinian land and labour), Teva Pharmaceuticals (Israel’s largest taxpaying company and a global pharmaceutical giant) and HP computers, printers and accessories (HP entities have contracts with Israeli security and identity agencies used to enforce colonization, imprisonment and the siege on Gaza.) Dalya al-Masri of the Palestinian Youth Movement spoke, highlighting the harms that these corporations’ actions cause to the Palestinian people through their profiting from colonialism.

The marchers then proceeded past Best Buy, which also sells HP products, toward SportChek, which markets Puma sportswear, where they highlighted the international #BoycottPuma campaign. Global sportswear manufacturer Puma is involved in violations of international law and human rights. Puma is the main sponsor of the Israel Football Association (IFA). Not only is this a direct sponsorship of an institution of Israeli apartheid and colonialism throughout Palestine, the IFA even includes teams based directly inside Israel’s illegal colonial settlements in the West Bank of occupied Palestine.

Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of Samidoun Network, spoke about Puma’s role in funding and sponsoring Israeli apartheid and colonialism. She also spoke about the various forms of repression targeting Palestinian athletes, including multiple imprisoned football players. She urged all to take action and show solidarity with the six Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strike — three facing a severe health crisis — against their administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, and to organize to free all 4,650 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Demonstrators, proceeding by the University of British Columbia Robson Street campus, denounced ongoing silence and complicity in the crimes committed against the Palestinian people. They expressed their solidarity with Indigenous peoples continuing to confront genocide, colonialism and settler colonialism on this land, the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Watuth peoples, and throughout Turtle Island, pausing for a moment of silence outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, where Indigenous communities have set up a memorial for the lives of Indigenous children taken through residential schools and other acts of genocide.

Marchers then proceeded to the BC Liquor Store, a government-owned liquor store that continues to market wines, marked “Product of Israel,” which are overwhelmingly created in illegal settlements on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank of Palestine and the Syrian Golan Heights. As they marched through the streets, they chanted: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! Boycott apartheid, boycott Israel! From Turtle Island to Palestine, colonialism is a crime!”

Outside the BC Liquor Store, Kathy Copps of BDS Vancouver – Coast Salish and the Canada Palestine Association demanded that these government-owned stores stop aiding in the violation of international law. She spoke about the history of this long-running campaign and urged people to contact the BC government and specifically Finance Minister Selina Robinson to end the BC Liquor Stores’ complicity in Israeli war crimes.

The protest then wound its way to Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre. Parsa, an SFU student with The Caucus, spoke about the importance of student involvement in the struggle for a free Palestine. He spoke about the words they had heard from Palestinian students one day earlier, during the “Palestinian Students Struggle for Freedom” webinar with former prisoner Layan Kayed and Samidoun Palestine coordinator Hadeel Shatara.

He emphasized the way that SFU and other universities act to quell student activism and separate students from the broader community, alongside ongoing complicity in colonialism here and in Palestine. He noted that SFU security had torn down all of the posters promoting Palestine Action Week only minutes after they were posted, focusing on silencing student voices rather than addressing ongoing colonial war crimes.

Palestine Action Week concluded on Friday, 8 October with a powerful event sponsored by the Palestinian Youth Movement and BAYAN Canada. Representatives of PYM and Sulong UBC delivered informative presentations on the history of the peoples’ struggles in Palestine and the Philippines, focusing on the struggle of political prisoners, followed by a discussion with Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat and Lengua de Guzman, trade unionist and wife of political prisoner Maoj Maga in the Philippines.

Organizers pledged to continue to build this week of action and further organizing for Palestine in Vancouver, across North America and internationally. The next Vancouver protest will take place on Saturday, 16 October, at 2 pm outside the French consulate at 1130 W. Pender Street, part of the Month of Action to Free Georges Abdallah, the Lebanese Communist struggler for Palestine imprisoned in France for 37 years.