Court blocks police bid to keep 18 protesters away

Police had asked that Sheikh Jarrah demonstrators be barred from protest area until the end of their trial on charges of causing public disturbance.

Judge Gad Ehrenberg of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Thursday rejected a police request to prohibit 18 Sheikh Jarrah protesters from entering the protest area until the end of their scheduled trial on charges of causing a public disturbance at last Friday’s demonstration.
The police had asked the court to remand the suspects in custody until the end of proceedings but agreed to set them free on condition that they stay away from the protest area.
An estimated 300 demonstrators gathered last week to protest the court-ordered takeover by Jews of homes they own in the Shimon Hatzadik compound in Sheikh Jarrah, in which Palestinian families have lived for 60 years. After giving the demonstrators about 40 minutes to chant protests against the eviction of the Palestinians, the police declared that the gathering was illegal and ordered the demonstrators to disperse. Protest leaders convinced Lt.-Cmdr. Bruno Stein to give them another 15 minutes.
However, instead of remaining where they were for 15 minutes, the protesters rushed across Nablus Road, a major north-south artery, and some headed towards the gate leading into the Shimon Hatzadik area. The protest continued and police detained, and later indicted, 18 of the demonstrators.
In his ruling, Ehrenberg rejected the police claim that the original protest had been illegal. According to police ordinances, a gathering is illegal only if it includes more than 50 people, is held outdoors and involves making a political speech. The police maintained that protest leaders had written their chants on paper, thus making them the equivalent of political speeches. But Ehrenberg rejected that argument.
However, the judge went on to say that once the protesters had gone back on their agreement to disperse and crossed Nablus Road, the protest became illegal.
Ehrenberg said that there were less drastic ways to decrease the danger the protesters posed of causing more disturbances than putting them in jail. He ruled that they could remain free, but must not participate in illegal gatherings like the one that developed after the protesters had crossed Nablus Road. If they ignored the condition, their freedom would be restricted, he said.