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PPA banned November Tartu demonstration planned in support of Palestinians

Tartu town hall.
Tartu town hall. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in November banned a public event aimed at demonstrating support for the Palestinian people, citing a provision in domestic law that prohibits meetings which incite hatred and violence.

The PPA on November 9 were notified of the registration of a public meeting whose stated aims were to plan and organize a peaceful, international public gathering in Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats) in Central Tartu (pictured). The gathering was to have been held on November 18.

The PPA says it wished to ascertain, from a representative of the organizers, what content might be utilized in messages displayed on placards, in order to review these in advance; the PPA also suggested considering an alternative location, as work on constructing a temporary ice rink in the Town Hall Square might not have been completed by the desired time.

Representative of the event's organizers Agnes Joyet suggested the intersection of Küün and Uueturu streets, also in Central Tartu, as an alternative, suitable location.

She then sent PPA officers examples of the planned placard texts as requested; these were, among other statements, that: "Muhu saare suurusel alal elab 2,2 miljonit inimest, keda pommitab tuumariik!" "2.2 million people live in an area the size of Muhu island, and are being bombed by a nuclear power!"; "Lõpp tsiviilisikute hukkamisele!" ("End the execution of civilians,"); "Palestiinlastel on õigus elule" ("Palestinians have the right to live"); and "Ära ole genotsiidi/tuhandete tsiviilisikute tapmise vaikiv pealtvaataja" ("Don't be a silent spectator to the genocide/killing of thousands of civilians").

Joyet also noted that given the public nature of the gathering, organizers could not forecast all eventualities over potential placard texts which participants might bring with them.

She said: "Naturally, as soon as we notice any slogans, on anyone's placards, which are clearly an incitement to violence or illegal activity, we will request that these be removed."

Additionally, Joyet stated that the firm desire of the organizers was for a peaceful gathering, a reasonable exchange of ideas, and a free expression of opinions.

The PPA however decided not to grant permission for the planned public event to go ahead on November 19, at any location, and notified the organizers of that decision the day before the planned demonstration.

ERR has obtained the letter, which was classified confidential in the document register through to the year 2098, issuing the decision.

Authored by Siim Linnard, PPA Southern Prefecture captain, the letter stated that: "The Tartu PPA station weighed up making a decision, and came to the conclusion that it would not permit this public meeting to take place."

"We have declined this, since other citizens may also appear at the meeting you have organized, but utilizing placards that may contain justification for aggression," Linnard went on in the letter.

In the letter declining permission for the event to go ahead, Linnard cited a provision of domestic Estonian law which prohibits the organization or holding of a gathering which incites hatred, violence or discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, skin color, sex, language, origin, religion, sexual orientation, political belief, property or social status.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Karin Koppel

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