PALESTINE PROTEST GOING AHEAD ON THURSDAY AFTER COURT DECISION: NOW MEETING AT TAYLOR SQUARE
A protest against the opening night of the Israeli Film Festival will be held at Taylor Square at 5.30pm on Thursday, despite today’s judgement in the Supreme Court of NSW.
Protest organisers have condemned the court for upholding NSW Police’s decision not to facilitate the protest, which was originally called outside the Palace Verona Cinema in Paddington, the cinema hosting the festival.
In handing down his decision on Wednesday, the Supreme Court’s Justice Hidden stressed that the courts do not have the right either to ban or to authorize protests. All the court has done is remove the immunity from prosecution that participants would otherwise have if disruption to the road is caused. Nevertheless, today’s decision has effectively banned the protest from going ahead in the form the organisers had chosen.
“This has every appearance of a politically motivated bid to silence pro-Palestine activists,” said Nick Riemer from Sydney Staff for BDS, one of the coalition of groups organising the protest. “The court apparently doesn’t think the right to protest is important enough to justify the same traffic arrangements which would easily be made for a burst water-main or a broken-down bus. This should be of grave concern to everyone committed to political freedom in our society.”
“It’s striking that this decision follows the police’s earlier refusal to facilitate a march on the News Corp offices to protest against their deeply biased coverage of the war on Gaza,” added Damian Ridgwell, from the Palestine Action Group. “In 2012, the police also took us to court to try to prevent a march through the city to commemorate the Nakbah, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine during Israel’s foundation in 1948.”
“We are outraged at this denial of freedom of speech and assembly in relation to a crucial human rights issue – the rights of Palestinian people,” said Vivienne Porszolt from Jews against the Occupation. “Our purpose is entirely peaceful. Events such as the Israeli Film Festival are part of a “charm offensive” by the State of Israel to distract attention from its crimes against the Palestinian people.”
“It would be perfectly possible to divert traffic around the protest,” said Ophelia Haragli, from the Palestine Action Group. “The police even presented the court with a plan for how they would do this. By accepting the police’s argument against the demonstration the court has effectively declared weekday evenings protest-free. But the right to protest is a basic democratic freedom which we will not surrender.”
Today’s decision recalls the banning of a protest against the Gaza war in Paris last month. It comes in the context of tightening restrictions on the right to protest in Australia. Victoria and Tasmania have both recently introduced laws which restrict protesters’ rights. Legal representation for the Israeli Film Festival protest was provided by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
Organisers have decided that Thursday’s protest to draw attention to Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza will assemble at Taylor Square at 5.30pm. Israeli attacks have now killed over 2000 Palestinians, including a woman and a child in one attack on Gaza City late on Tuesday.
For further information, contact:
Nick Riemer (Sydney Staff for BDS) 0481 339 937
Vivienne Porszolt (Jews against the Occupation) 0411 366 295
Ophelia Haragli (Palestine Action Group) 0410 782 263
Damian Ridgwell (Palestine Action Group) 0408 369 182