“A Test of Freedom: False Detentions During Pride Month Events”

The pamphlet

Wednesday, June 2, 2021, 21:21 In anticipation of the 2021 Pride Marches, Honenu published a pamphlet, “A Test of Freedom: False Detentions During Pride Month Events”, which summarizes several representative cases in which the police acted illegally out of excess enthusiasm to protect participants in previous marches. The pamphlet describes how the police severely violated the individual rights of innocent citizens due to profiling based solely on their outward appearance. In many instances, the injured parties sued and were awarded compensation. (See here for additional cases.)
The pamphlet opens with a description of an incident from summer 2017. Three youths were on their way to a legal protest against a pride march, but were detained before they arrived. They were led handcuffed in public and one of them was forced to sign an agreement to house arrest. With the assistance of Honenu, the three sued the police and were awarded 18,000 NIS in total.
In his decision, Judge Gad Erenberg mentioned the murder of Shira Banki during the 2015 Pride March, and said that the murder had caused the police to meticulously prepare for the march in order to prevent a repeat of similar incidents. However, Judge Erenberg added that “with all the importance of preparation such as this, there must not be a situation in which preparation and operations at the site violate the fundamental rights of those who oppose the march, including the right to protest.”
Before and during the 2020 Pride March, the police detained many citizens – minors and adults, educators and others – solely due to their appearance. All they had in common was a baseless suspicion that they would “disturb the public peace” or “disturb the public order”. In most of the incidents, the detainees were released after many hours, without having been interrogated. However, at times they were interrogated regarding the Pride March. Three detainees who sued the police were awarded a total of 10,000 NIS, and other cases are still open.
In 2019, the police detained David Cohen, an approximately 50-year-old K’far Saba resident, claiming that he had posted incitement on his Facebook page against the LGBT community and the then upcoming Ashdod Pride March. Despite Cohen’s explanation – “I opened a Facebook account ten years ago and I haven’t done anything with it since then” – he was falsely detained and handcuffed, his cell phone was confiscated and he suffered defamation. With the assistance of Honenu, Cohen sued the police and was awarded 16,000 NIS in compensation.
That same year, seven youths came from the Shomron to protest the Jerusalem Pride March. A border police officer stopped their demonstration by shouting, “I want all of them on the ground and detained.” Although the demonstration was legal according to fundamental law of freedom of expression, the border policemen in his command followed orders and laid all of the youths down on the street handcuffed behind their backs. One of the detainees was also illegally strip searched in front of his friends. Honenu filed a suit on their behalf, which is currently being handled by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court.
In a case similar to that of the aforementioned David Cohen, D., a businessman residing in the central region of Israel, was running errands on Ahuza Street in Ra’anana on the day of that city’s pride march. To his surprise a policeman prevented him from continuing and directed him to a parallel street. When D. objected to the order and refused to present his ID card, at least eight policemen jumped on him and informed him that he was “resisting detention”. D.’s question as to the reason for his detention was not answered by the policemen. He was handcuffed and loaded into a police car. D. was forced to wait until the following morning to be interrogated and was brought before a judge who refused to extend his remand.
Honenu describes the incident as false detention and humiliation of an individual only because of his religious appearance, and “a big show of ego by a panicking and heavy-handed police force”. Also, the detainee suffered financial damage due to cancellation of a business meeting that was scheduled for the day after his detention. Honenu filed a suit for 75,000 NIS on behalf of D., which is being judged by the K’far Saba Magistrates Court.
The pamphlet concludes with the story of a young couple who, on the day of the 2020 Jerusalem Pride March, came to the city to run errands in preparation for their wedding, among them purchasing an engagement ring. At some point, police detectives approached them and informed them that they were being detained. The couple had not even been aware that the Pride March was taking place that day. They were released many hours later, after the march was over. The suit filed on their behalf by Honenu is being handled by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court.
Honenu: “This is obviously only a small portion of the entire number of detentions and fundamental rights violations connected to pride marches concerning which Honenu has provided legal counsel. The cases indicate the general policy: Every citizen with a religious appearance walking through the center of a city on the day of a pride march is liable to be detained. Whoever intends to legally protest a pride march is liable to be illegally handcuffed in full view of everyone on a busy city street. This heavy-handedness of the Israeli Police has no place in a democratic country. The time has come for someone to put a stop to it.”

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