Police must compensate protesters who demonstrated outside the home of a bereaved family in November after officers confiscated their loudspeakers during a protest, a court ruled Thursday, saying that
“Specifically in these cases, we must examine the freedom of expression,” Judge Ehud Kaplan of the Hadera Magistrate’s Court wrote in his decision, according to which police must pay protesters a sum of 1,200 shekels ($377). Their equipment had already been returned to them by police.
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In November, about 15 protesters supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gathered outside the home of the Farkash family, who live close to the Netanyahu family’s private home in Caesarea. They accused the family, whose son, Capt. Tom Farkash, was killed in a helicopter crash during the Second Lebanon War, of hosting anti-Netanyahu activists on their roof.
During the protest against the Farkash family, police confiscated a portable speaker system and a microphone, According to the court minutes, This occurred after the protesters began to denigrate the family, and one called: “Just because you lost your son doesn’t give you the right,” a statement that sparked outrage from politicians across the spectrum, including Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Seven of the demonstrators petitioned the court to return the equipment, but police gave back the equipment before the hearing took place. The protesters also requested that the police reimburse them for legal fees.
In his decision, Kaplan wrote that he requested a response from the police regarding the confiscation, but “they were slow to respond, even after being asked twice.” He said that police did give a response to the protesters’ lawyer, but it was “laconic and outrageous, and said that the Israel Police seized the equipment according to the law. Why ‘according to the law,’ I do not know.”
He added, “It is difficult for me to decide what is more serious – seizing a speaker and microphone with no legal justification, or the Israel Police’s playing dumb in their response. Freedom of expression and protest also protect the revolting statements made by some of those present to a bereaved family.”
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The police released a statement saying: “During this complicated time, the Israel Police are acting to ensure every person freedom of expression and protest within the bounds of the law. The equipment was confiscated during an attempt by police to restore public order at a protest that was held at the location, and was returned to its owners. At the same time, the court’s decision will be studied, and as needed, the necessary lessons will be learned accordingly.”