From Iceland — Protester "Wins" Case On Right To Peaceful Assembly

Protester “Wins” Case On Right To Peaceful Assembly

Published May 5, 2011

A protester who was charged with not obeying a police order did achieve a victory of sorts in the ruling handed down to him.
Many of our readers might be familiar with Lárus Páll Birgisson, a perennial protester whose main focus of attention has been the US embassy in Reykjavík, where he could often be found sitting in front of the building protesting US militarism and Iceland’s participation in it. Lárus was charged first last December and then again last February for disobeying a police order to leave the premises after embassy employees complained of his presence.
Lárus, for his part, has argued that while he may be in front of the US embassy, he is also on the sidewalk, which is owned by the city of Reykjavík and therefore public property.
Svipan now reports that the courts have passed their ruling on the matter. While they did stand by the charge of disobeying a police order, Lárus was not given any punishment beyond covering legal costs, about 100,000 ISK.
But more importantly, the courts also confirmed that the sidewalk in front of the US embassy is public property. This ruling effectively confirms that Lárus – and anyone else for that matter – have the legally protected right to peacefully protest in front of the US embassy.
UPDATE: An alert reader has informed us that Lárus’ actual victory was that he recently went to the US embassy and was not asked by police to leave, as is normally the case. And while there has been no formal court ruling on who may or may not stand on which sidewalk, peaceful assembly in public space is constitutionally protected in Iceland.

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