Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Sunday announced a major policy initiative that permits protesters to pitch tents but sets parameters regarding their placement and the length of time they can be pitched, as part of a new protest-approval process.
Essentially, Weinstein’s concept is to permit protest groups (possibly directed more toward those with wide support and which implicate the public interest) to apply for a general approval that grants them the right to pitch tents during an extended period of time, instead of needing to apply for a new approval each day they want to protest.
The announcement – made in a response to a petition by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) to the High Court of Justice against the Tel Aviv Municipality’s policy of demanding individual permits for each pitching of tents and of aggressively removing those without permits – represents a second major policy shift by the state toward being more protester-friendly in a matter of days.
Last week, the Justice Ministry announced that it had asked the State Attorney’s Office to reevaluate all indictments against social justice protesters, including leader Daphni Leef.
Weinstein’s statement said that he viewed the new policy as striking a balance between recognizing “freedom of speech” and the right to protest as among the most important rights, while setting limits where that speech would harm the public interest.
The statement said that there would be limits as to how long tent protests could last, to which protest leaders would need to agree in advance.
It added that protest leaders would need to agree to specific locations for pitching tents, such as large park areas, as opposed to blocking streets and other thoroughfares.
A core premise of the policy is also differentiating between protesters who wish to pitch tents for a set, relatively brief period as opposed to protesters who wish to do so for an indefinite period which harms the public interest.
Although the new policy would not require getting a new permit or permission for each protest, it would require notifying the authorities in advance, so that they could evaluate the extent to which protest conditions might significantly burden the public.
Only protests that could significantly harm the public interest would need a specific approval each time.
ACRI responded calling Weinstein’s announcement a “substantial improvement in comparison to the position of the Tel Aviv Municipality, whose position had been approved by the Tel Aviv District Court regarding which the appeal was filed.”
It added that if the High Court endorsed Weinstein’s position, the endorsement would require Tel Aviv and other municipalities to substantially change their policies.