[Friends of Palestine WA notes the important legal victory for the Max Brenner 19 on July 23. Information below is from Students for Palestine in Victoria.]
This week saw a decisive victory for all progressive activists in Melbourne, as the charges of ‘trespass’ and ‘beset’ made against16 pro-Palestine activists were dismissed by the Melbourne Magistrates court. Drawing on the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, Magistrate Simon Garnett concluded that, “The protesters had a lawful right to enter QV Square without restriction. They had a lawful right to conduct the “political demonstration”. Garnett argued that to evict the protesters from QV Square was a breach of the human rights to ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘peaceful assembly’.
Garnett also found the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions rally in July last year where the arrests took place to be entirely peaceful. Defence lawyer, Rob Starry who acted for some of the accused explains that “The magistrate has ruled that there was nothing unlawful in the actions of the protesters. There was no breach of the peace, they were not involved in any other conduct in the protest itself that might constitute a disturbance, and so in a public space, in a public domain, they had a right to express themselves in that manner. It was a peaceful protest and the protesters have been completely exonerated.”
The court outcome represents an important victory for all progressive activists as it has vindicated our right to peaceful protest in public space and in particular, space where corporations previously believed they controlled. The attempts to intimidate and silence pro-Palestine voices in Australia has been decisively beaten back.
Starry also said the decision had wide-ranging ramifications. “This case is really a landmark case in the annuls of the criminal justice system because what it represents is people have a right to express themselves politically,” he said.
“This week’s decision is likely to have a major impact on the way other trespass cases, such as any brought against Occupy Melbourne protesters, are handled in the future.”
In Melbourne, Students for Palestine will holding a victory rally to reclaim QV Square on Friday 27 July, 5:30pm