by ABC news
Legal experts say a Melbourne Magistrate’s dismissal of a Victoria Police case against protesters could influence future disputes.
Sixteen people were arrested and charged after clashing with police during a pro-Palestinian rally outside an Israeli-owned chocolate shop in Melbourne last July.
A Magistrate ruled the protesters were exercising their human rights and said their demonstration was lawful.
Magistrate Simon Garnett also found the protesters did not threaten the peace or disrupt the public order.
He also criticised the police response in some arrests, describing it as ‘heavy-handed’.
Lawyer Rob Stary represented the protesters.
He says the case against his clients was doomed to fail.
“If they (his clients) oppose the occupation of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank they should be entitled to say so,” he said.
We don’t live in a totalitarian regime, this is not Syria or Iraq or Egypt.Lawyer Rob Stary
Mr Stary says he expects the case to set a precedent, including on picket lines.
“I think it’s got very very wide ramifications,” he said.
“I think firstly police should not get involved in political protests, or industrial disputes of this nature, that they shouldn’t be criminalised.
“We live in a democratic robust society, and people should be entitled to express their views.”
Mr Stary says people should be allowed to exercise their right of freedom of speech.
“We don’t live in a totalitarian regime, this is not Syria or Iraq or Egypt,” he said.
“This is Australia where we should be able to engage in robust debate about important issues.”
Protester Vashti Kenway said the decision was a victory for freedom of speech.
“We feel particularly pleased that this result has been made because it leads on to affect other questions, such as Occupy Melbourne.
“It’s a victory for our capacity to protest in places where corporations have previously said they controlled,” she said.
“It’s also useful for us to know that the QV management have no right to say we are not allowed to express our political opinions within that space.”
The protesters demonstrated at the Max Brenner chocolate store in Melbourne’s QV in July last year.
Protesters targeted the Lonsdale Street store claiming the franchise had aided the Israeli Army.