In response to a letter from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) demanding the return of equipment confiscated from protest activists, the Jerusalem Municipality stated that it will not allow the erection of tents without a permit and will not return the equipment unless the activists agree to stand by its conditions because the repeated evacuations of protest tents are “a waste of public money.” ACRI, along with four individual activists, filed a petition against the municipality yesterday (July 23), claiming its policies are unauthorized by law.
Camp No Choice, established by homeless people and social activists, was made up of seven tents and erected in Jerusalem’s Independence Park on July 14, 2012, in commemoration of the social protests’ one year anniversary, and ahead of a Knesset discussion on the subject of public housing scheduled to take place three days later, on July 17. Even though the activists declared their intent to maintain the camp only until the end of Tuesday’s Knesset discussion, at six o’clock on Monday morning, the camp was brutally dismantled by municipal inspectors. Activists were dragged out of their beds and their equipment and personal property were confiscated. When the activists demanded the return of their property, the municipality refused to so until they agreed not to establish protest tents without the municipality’s permission.
The petition, filed by ACRI Attorney Sharona Eliahu Chai on behalf of ACRI and four social protestors, asks the court to void the municipality’s illegal regulations limiting the freedom of demonstration. A new municipal regulation conditions a permit for a protest tent on, among other things: a business license, permission from the municipality’s General Director, a police permit, a bank guarantee and more. Protest tents that did receive permits were not allowed to continue for more than one day, and were only allowed in specific locations. Citizens planning to raise a protest tent across from the Prime Minister’s residence are required to provide a bank guarantee of 12,000 NIS and agree to additional limiting conditions.
A similar petition was recently filed against the Tel Aviv municipality.
“The right to demonstrate is important everywhere, but especially so in the capital city. The Jerusalem Municipality has no legal authority to determine whether or not to permit the erection of tents. As long as a given tent does not constitute a significant hazard, the activists have the right to express their protest in this framework,” said ACRI Attorney Sharona Eliahu Chai.
For the petition against the Jerusalem Municipality (in Hebrew), click here.
For ACRI’s letter to the municipality regarding the confiscated property (in Hebrew), click here.
For the municipality’s response (in Hebrew), click here.
To read about a similar petition filed against the Tel Aviv Municipality, click here.