Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Max Brenner 19 Trial: An Update

"Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom to only speak inoffensively is not worth having." UK Lord Justice Sedly (Quoted by the defence counsel in their submission for a no-case ruling in this trial.)

From Green Left Weekly, 30/5/12:

"The trial of 16 activists arrested at a Palestine solidarity protest outside a Max Brenner store in [Melbourne's] QV shopping centre in July last year finished on May 25. Freedom of political expression and the right to protest have been on trial in this court case.

"The activists' court case began on May 1 and lasted almost a month. They were charged with besetting and trespass. Several protesters have extra charges of resisting arrest, hindering arrest and assault. A charge of riotous behaviour against one protester was withdrawn by the prosecution before the case began.

"The protest where the 16 were arrested was part of the international boycott, divestment & sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel. The Max Brenner company was a target because its parent company, the Strauss Group, has close ties with the Israeli military.

"Defence counsel Peta Murphy said that the police action on July 1 was premised on QV Square being privately owned and that the private owners had an absolute right to determine who could come on to the property, when they must leave, and any conditions and restrictions as to entry. Murphy said QV does not have any authority to demand someone leave a public place unless they are present as a wilful trespasser. Murphy said that QV does not have any legal basis on which to demand that any person leave a public place because they are 'demonstrating disapproval of the political or social interests of a retail tenant'.

"QV manager Lisa Fleming admitted during the trial that QV Square and the surrounding lanes were subject to a covenant entered into by the owners of QV with the Melbourne City Council. The Planning & Environment Act (1987) requires QV Square and the QV laneways to be open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The owners of QV Square did not have any authority to close access without the approval of the Melbourne City Council. Murphy said any other approach would limit the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly protected by the Charter of Human Rights & Responsibilities Act (2006).

"Defence counsel Stewart Bayles said the prosecution's case for besetting was not supported by evidence. He referred to CCTV footage which showed members of the public walking freely through the protesters until they reached the police line where they were turned back by the police.

"Magistrate Simon Garnett will release his decision on July 23." (Max Brenner Palestine protesters await verdict, Kerry Smith)

For a day by day account go to boycottisrael19.wordpress.com.

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