Court overrules municipality demand to close Balfour protest tent

The Jerusalem District Court overruled a municipal decision to demand that protesters take down the big tent on Balfour Street, across from the Prime Minister's Residence.

DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in Tel Aviv on July 18. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in Tel Aviv on July 18.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Jerusalem District Court on Thursday approved a request for an order stating that a protest tent located across from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem should not be taken down.
Protest leaders Amir Haskel, Ronit Ernfroind and Asaf Agmon filed a petition to the Court on Thursday, complaining about the Jerusalem Municipality's decision to close the tent located on Balfour street.
"The municipality, for months, has accepted our protests, and we reached various agreements with them," Ernfroind said. "The level of understandings between us were so serious, they even helped us. They knew and understood that we were there. They accepted us being there. This is a very sudden incident which we suspect to be a political incident."
She explained: "When we submitted the petition to the municipality, the municipality gave us conditions that are ridiculous and made to limit us."
After the municipality asked that the protesters prop up the tent at specific hours and take it down throughout the night, the three organizers turned to the court to overrule this decision. The court agreed.
The petition additionally turned to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit asking that he get involved and defend their right to keep the tent propped up in front of the Prime Minister's Residence, which is symbolic politically for the movement against Netanyahu.
"The High Court of Justice decided that people are permitted to protest in front of the prime minister's residence on Balfour Street," Yair Nehorai, one of the attorneys involved in presenting the petition to the court, said. "The municipality argues that we can protest there, but that we cannot have a tent there. We argue that in the name of freedom of speech, the municipality does not have the authority to do so."
The tent has been propped up on the location for months, having been used as a central base for the anti-Netanyahu protests in Jerusalem, one of over 1,000 protests which occur weekly throughout the country against government corruption and its actions during the coronavirus pandemic.
The petition claims that the tent's location beside the official residence of the prime minister is crucial to enabling protests in the region. The organizers, from the "No Chance" (Ein Matsav) movement claimed that their right to protest and freedom of expression on location is derived from the Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty and in accordance with the High Court ruling regarding the right to protest near the prime minister's residence. Any limitation of this right, according to the complainants, is an infringement of the law.
Tensions have been increasingly high at Jerusalem protests as of late, with anti-Netanyahu protesters clashing with police and being attacked by right-wing anti-protesters. Protesters and politicians alike have sought police reinforcement surrounding local protests and especially surrounding the Balfour Street protest.
Another wave of protests is expected to occur throughout the country – in particular in Jerusalem – on Saturday evening, just as it has occurred for practically five months.