Israel protesters stumble across police bureaucracy (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Tomer Zarchin 05/16/12)
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Caesarea resident Orna Ashkenazi, 55, knows the Hadera police station
very well. Twice last year the police picked her up for questioning
on Friday evening. Her picture was taken and she was fingerprinted.
The reason? Ashkenazi was one of the organizers of a vigil for the
release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, which every Friday
afternoon stood near the commercial center in Caesarea.
The organizers of the vigil hoped that when Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu came home to Caesarea for the weekend, he would see the 20
to 30 protesters holding their signs and flags with Shalit´s picture,
determined to bring Shalit home. Sometimes Asheknazi stood there by
Every Sunday, Ashkenazi sent a request for a protest permit to the
Hadera police station, even though she later found out that she did
not require a permit to stand on the side of the road leading to
Netanyahu´s house and hold a flag.
In one case Ashkenazi was picked up by a patrol car because another
protester approached the road as Netanyahu´s motorcade passed, going
beyond barriers that had been set up.
"They picked me up only because I´m the one who signed the request
for a permit. The encounter at the police station was very
unpleasant. All we had wanted to do was protest and they treated us
like major criminals," Ashkenazi said.
The Hadera police chief, Chief Superintendent Benny Harnes,
responding to a query from the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel, said that because the numbers of protesters and the
activities changed every week, "there was a clear need for an
organizer who submits a request." He said that because Ashkenazi´s
name was on the form, she bore responsibility for any deviations.
Last week ACRI attorney Mira Shalev wrote to the police legal
adviser, Chief Superintendent Shaul Gordon, asking that he end what
she called constant infringements of the right to demonstrate and
that police be refreshed on the legal aspects of breaking up
Shalev said the police were ignorant of the law, demanding permits
for demonstrations where none was legally required, and breaking up
demonstrations unjustifiably. Shalev said such actions "not only
harmed the individuals involved, but silenced legitimate protest" and
According to the law, the police can break up any gathering of more
than three people when they suspect there is a danger the group will
disturb the peace.
But internal police instructions state that two types of
demonstrations require permits: marches with more than 50
participants or and open-air meetings with more than 50 participants
where political speeches are given.
In several incidents over the past year the police have placed
various obstacles before protesters.
In one case, a social-justice protest activist who spread the word
last month about a demonstration received a phone call from a man who
identified himself only as "Yoni from the Jerusalem police." The
woman said he told her that she would have to obtain a permit for the
next day´s protest, "according to the law."
Alon Gur, a student at Sde Boker College in the Negev wanted to stand
at the entrance to the tomb of David Ben-Gurion, on the day of the
state memorial service, which Netanyahu attended. Gur held a sign
reading "Netanyahu is destroying the country; Ben-Gurion is turning
over in his grave." Gur said he wanted to stand near the guard booth
at the entrance to the site so that everyone arriving could see it,
"At first the police tried to tell me this was unsuitable at a state
event. I told them legally there was no problem and I didn´t intend
to give in. They asked me to move across the road and threatened that
if I didn´t they would file a complaint, and I would have a police
record," Gur said.
ACRI´s legal adviser Dan Yakir said: "Legislation protects freedom of
expression and demonstration, as do many court rulings. But while the
function of the police is to protect the right to demonstrate. This
is happening all along the way, from the setting of illegal and
unreasonable conditions, to the need to request a permit, to illegal
action during the protest, dispersing it without a legal reason,
arresting protesters who had not broken the law and even issuing
A statement issued by the police spokesman´s office said that the
limited number of cases in which the court ruled that the police had
dispersed demonstrations illegally, are not typical. "Most of the
criticism seems to have been about the conditions the police present
involving public safety...we act in a way that leads the people in
charge to take responsibility for this issue according to the law and
will continue to do so. It is regrettable that these proper
considerations are perceived as improper and intended wholely to make
it unnecessarily difficult for the public to protest." (© Copyright
2012 Ha´aretz 05/16/12)
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