News Column

Crackdown on G4S shareholders after AGM protest over human rights

June 6, 2014

Rupert Neate



G4S security guards have violently removed more than a dozen protesting shareholders from the company's AGM.

Protesters, who bought shares in the firm in order to attend the meeting, were dragged out of the conference room in the ExCel Centre in London yesterday after speaking out about its role supplying Israeli prisons and the death of an Angolan man while being deported by G4S guards.

One protester who had attached herself to a chair was manhandled by four security guards. "You are hurting me, you are hurting me," she said as she was dragged from the meeting.

A leaflet she left behind said: "We are here because G4S helps governments across the world to violate basic human rights. We want to remind you that the huge salaries your board earns and the dividends that your shareholders pocket are only possible because of the extreme human suffering that G4S inflicts."

Another protester was violently evicted after he spoke out about the death of Angolan national Jimmy Mubenga. "Shame on G4S from making illegal deportations. Who killed Jimmy Mubenga?"

John Connolly, the firm's chairman, banned the Guardian from tweeting or live reporting from the meeting. G4S guards prevented shareholders from taking photos or videos of the removal of protesters.

A shareholder interrupted proceedings to question the board about the violent removal of protesters. He said: "This cannot be acceptable. You cannot have people being dragged out." Another shareholder said: "We feel very uncomfortable about our company doing this."

A total of 29 security guards and other personnel were positioned in the room.

One G4S investor, Shamiul Joarder, said the behaviour of guards was shocking. "What worries me is this is the AGM, this is the creme de la creme. It doesn't bode well for how G4S deals with people on the ground if the board allows this."

Chris Rose, a proxy shareholder and vicar of St Clement's church, Eastcheap, said the behaviour of guards was ridiculous. "This is the leading company in an area that needs an ethical approach."

Speaking to the Guardian after the meeting, Connolly denied that protesting shareholders had been treated violently by the company's guards. He said protesters had been warned at the start of the meeting that if they caused a disruption they would be asked to leave.

"If someone refuses to leave and lies down on the floor they will be assisted to leave," he said. "I saw one person carried out. How else do you get someone to leave if they continue [to protest] without helping them out?"

G4S has denied any involvement in torture or human rights abuses. Connolly said the company had already decided not to renew its contracts to maintain prisons in Israel and the West Bank.

Ashley Almanza, its chief executive, said: "We do not operate prisons, we supply prisons with security equipment."

An independent report commissioned by G4S after protests at last year's AGM found that the firm "had no causal or contributory role in human rights violations".

Protesters made reference to Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan national who died while being deported from the UK by G4S guards



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Source: Guardian (UK)