What does the right to Freedom of Assembly and Protest entail?
Civics Academy SA
Published at : 19 Dec 2021
Section 17 of the Constitution protects the right to freedom of assembly and protest. The Regulation of Gatherings Act sets out how protests should take place and applies only to gatherings in public places with 15 or more people. The Act assumes that all protests are allowed and that they won’t be banned due to technicalities. Even without giving notice, it is not illegal to take part in a spontaneous gathering. It is however illegal to plan a protest without giving notice and to carry weapons during a protest.
The police must negotiate with leaders if need be to ensure that the protest remains peaceful and may ask protestors to obey reasonable conditions. Protest can only be banned in extreme conditions. For protests outside Parliament and the Union Buildings, permission is always required.
Police may only use force as a measure of last resort, has to follow procedures and must display tolerance to the people involved in the protests. Force may only be considered if protests threaten to become violent and endanger people or property.