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  • ACRI

Rehovot Municipality's Refusal to Approve a Protest Event in Public Space

Protesters outside the blocked garden, September 17, 2022. Photo: Michelle Weston Laor

Activists who appealed to the Rehovot Municipality requesting technical-safety coordination around the use of electricity as part of a protest march and event in the public Founders' Garden, were refused. Moreover, when the activists completed the march and sought to gather in the public garden, they were surprised to find that the entrance was blocked through barricade tape, and inspectors were stationed therein. The activists had no choice but to stand on the street corner near the sidewalk.

On September 20, 2022, we appealed to the municipality demanding that it cease to intervene in protests held in public spaces within its bounds. In the appeal, Field and Freedom of Protest Coordinator Sivan Tahel, and Unit Director of the Public Hotline Attorney Reut Shaer, argued that the municipality has no legal authority to refuse or prevent protest events within its area of jurisdiction. The municipality's authority is restricted to matters related to the management of public space for the benefit of residents, protecting safety, preventing hazards, maintaining the integrity of public facilities, etc. It may establish conditions for the safe use of certain facilities, such as electricity, but is not authorized to restrict freedom of demonstration and protest in public spaces under its jurisdiction, such that approval to hold the demonstrations themselves, is not required whatsoever.

In the appeal, Tahel and Shaer emphasized the importance of freedom of political expression, including holding protests on political issues and voicing political stances, along with the broad protections granted by High Court of Justice rulings. They also noted that even in contexts wherein the municipality is authorized to set any such conditions or restrictions on certain forms of expression – it is clearly not authorized to do so on the basis of the content or any other discriminatory consideration.

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