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The District Court accepted our petition regarding protest signs in Jerusalem

protest sign
Photo by Tal Dahan, ACRI

On June 20, 2021, ACRI filed a petition with the Jerusalem Administrative Court, on behalf of four social activists. The petition sought to order the Jerusalem Municipality to refrain from taking action against protest signs, which demonstrators hang or place in sites of protest amid demonstrations.

The four petitioners participated in demonstrations and protest vigils in Jerusalem, each addressing issues close to their hearts. As part of the demonstrations, they temporarily hung protest posters. Jerusalem Municipality inspectors demanded that the signs be removed, claiming that hanging them, even temporarily, required receipt of prior municipal approval. In some cases the inspectors even fined them for offenses such as "displaying a sign without a permit" or "placing an obstacle in the street.” In all cases, the signs did not pose a danger or disturbance and the inspectors did not even make such claims, but rather solely noted that the posters lacked permits.

The petition alleged that the municipality's systematic harassment of protest signs that are temporarily hung during demonstrations or protests, violated the fundamental right to freedom of expression and protest, which is a constitutional right and cornerstone of democracy. The Supreme Court ruled that the right to protest may solely be restricted when there is near certainty that grave harm will be caused to public order or public safety, and to the most limited extent possible. It was further claimed that the signage bylaw, on which the municipality relies, lacks any content that authorizes it to act against the signs and demonstrators in its current fashion.

On December 5, 2021, the Jerusalem District Court accepted the petition. The court ruled that the municipality's policy, which required prior permission to hang protest signs as part of demonstrations, in accordance with the municipal bylaw on signage, was unreasonable and unconstitutional due to its disproportionate violation of the freedom to protest.

The ruling stated that "The application of the procedure set forth in the bylaw, for posters hung during demonstrations, is expressly inapplicable and to the extent that we ask demonstrators to request that protestors receive permits for any poster they intend to hang to express their opinion during a demonstration, and in view of the right of expression and the right to demonstrate, poses a decree by which the public cannot abide, and in view of the right to expression and the right to protest, this is a decree by which the public should not abide."

The ruling also stated that: "Any interpretation that seeks to apply the provisions of the signage bylaw in the context of demonstrations is expressly unacceptable. It is worth remembering that before each demonstration, the demonstrator will be required to apply for a poster permit, pay a fee, and so forth. Simply put: any application of the bylaw within the context of demonstrations is irrelevant, not the issue at hand, and retains blatant visible unconstitutionality."

In response to the ruling, ACRI attorneys Avner Pinchuk and Reut Shaer said: "We welcome the ruling, which put an end to the municipality's systematic harassment of activists who hung protest signs during demonstrations or protest events. This conduct violated the fundamental right to freedom of expression and protest, which is a constitutional right, cornerstone of democracy, and it is fitting that the court put an end to that."

Administrative petition 44961-06-21

For further information (Hebrew)

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