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Police want to avoid a repeat of the Tallinn pro-Palestinian protest

"Sound Off: Solidarity with Palestine" protest at Tallinn's Freedom Square on Sunday. November 5, 2023. Source: Ahmed Al Madani/Private library

Siim Linnard, Tartu Regional Head of the PPA, told ERR that it is forbidden in Estonia to hold demonstrations that incite hatred or violence. The "Silent Rally in Support of Palestine and Palestinians" Tartu demonstration took place on December 2, after initial police refusal to register the event.

"At the beginning of November, a demonstration in support of the Palestinians took place in Tallinn, where hostile language against the state and people of Israel was used and five people were fined by the police," Linnard said.

"In order to prevent such a situation and to make sure that the public meeting would be peaceful, we want to proactively discuss the organizational issues with the organizer of the Tartu meeting," Linnard explained the initial refusal.

Linnard said that conditions for the public assembly are established by law and that, if necessary, it is the responsibility of the police to draw attention to them.

The organizer is obligated, among other things, to ensure that the meeting does not incite hatred and that designated coordinators are in charge of the site's security and the meeting's peaceful conduct.

"In Solidarity with Palestine" demonstration in Tartu, December 2, 2023. Source: Agnes Joyet

"Everyone in Estonia has the right to speak out, provided that doing so does not violate the rights of others," he said.

"It is the job of the police to make sure these requirements are met and to prevent potential risks. It is normal for the police to meet with the organizer of a demonstration, talk through possible risk, liaise with the security company or coordinators who will keep order on site. We thoroughly considered registering the meeting, but denied it on the grounds that, in our view, the organizer had not sufficiently thought through all the risks and had not acted to mitigate them," he said.

According to him, the police drew attention to these concerns in subsequent correspondence and at the meeting with organizers.

The demonstration was successfully registered for December 2, after all the issues were resolved.

"On December 2, the meeting passed off peacefully and there were no breaches," a police representative said.

"In Solidarity with Palestine" demonstration in Tartu, December 2, 2023. Source: Agnes Joyet

The reason why the initial letter of refusal was classified by the police was to protect the personal information of the organizers, Linnard told ERR.

The 2-hour demonstration went under the name "Silent Rally in Support of Palestine and Palestinians."

The description of the demonstration stated: "Palestinians have the right to life, and Palestinians have the right to human rights. You are welcome to join us to talk peacefully. Placards are also welcome, but the police ask that messages from the river to the sea and loud shouts are avoided. This is a peaceful gathering; anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and other expressions of hatred and intolerance are not welcome," Delfi portal reported.

When Delfi spoke with the organizer around noon, a few dozen individuals had already assembled for the demonstration. According to the organizer, the Saturday event was organized only the day before, on Friday, so any attendance was satisfactory.

You can see Delfi portal video and images of the demonstration in Tartu here.

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Editor: Karin Koppel, Kristina Kersa

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