Centre For Justice: Freedom Of Assembly Laws

December 3, 2016

The Centre for Justice said the protest on Friday ”raises a number of legal issues” they wish to address as part of their remit to raise public awareness around civil liberties.

The Centre said, “Section 10 of the Bermuda Constitution guarantees the right of freedom of assembly and association. As in most fundamental rights, this freedom is not an absolute right.

“Freedom of assembly can only be lawful if it is peaceful. Freedom of peaceful assembly means the intentional and temporary presence of a number of individuals in a public place for a common purpose.

“An assembly is deemed peaceful if its organizers have professed peaceful intentions and the conduct of the assembly is non-violent.

“Freedom of assembly is integral to a healthy and vibrant democracy. Any restriction on it must be proportionate.

“According to the Venice Commission’s Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, there is a presumption in favour of holding assemblies, and our democracy requires that laws exist to facilitate and protect such gatherings.

“Where any restrictions on the freedom of assembly are required, they must be proportionate and must not fundamentally alter the character of the assembly or attempt to relocate the assembly to less visible locations.

“The freedom is to be enjoyed by everyone regardless of age, sex or gender, religion or belief, affiliation, family status, sexual orientation, ability or socio-economic status.

“Peaceful assembly must also be distinguished from activity that can constitute a criminal offence. By way of clarification, the law does not permit those gathered for assembly and protest to block public access ways or rights of way.

“Section 12[c] of the Parliament Act 1957 provides that any person who wilfully interferes or attempts to interfere with the free exercise of any member of Parliament or Senator of their duties commits an offence.

“Accordingly, preventing access to the House of Assembly by Parliamentarians is an offence. The Courts have the power to imprison someone who is found guilty of this offence for up to two years or impose a fine of $16,800 or do both.

Screenshot of Section 12 of the Parliament Act 1957 [PDF]:

1-Fullscreen capture 03122016 45012 PM

“Further, under section 20[1][c] the Summary Offences Act 1926, any person who knowingly interferes with the carrying on of any lawful activity in any public premises [which includes any building occupied or used by or on behalf of the Government] commits an offence.

“Section 98 of the Criminal Code Act 1907 creates offences relating to unlawful assembly and riot. Specifically, where more than three people assemble and act in a way to cause anyone in a neighbourhood to fear [on reasonable grounds] that they will disturb the peace, that gathering is unlawful. Separately, where that unlawful gathering acts in a manner to disturb the peace, those individuals are said to engage in a riot.

“It is therefore clear that so long as the assembly, march or protest is lawful and peaceful, the right to engage in such an assembly, march or protest cannot be interfered with.

“Historically, there have been occasions where those advocating for human rights and civil liberties have engaged in acts of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience to successfully challenge the status quo.

“Anyone seeking to engage in civil disobedience should be aware of the risks associated with doing so, which may result in criminal sanction.

“Given the potential for criminal sanction, it is recommended that individuals engaged in civil disobedience also understand their rights in the event they are arrested and/or prosecuted for committing an offence.”

The Centre noted that this statement is “to promote an understanding of the applicable legal principles engaged by the right to freedom of assembly and “does not constitute legal advice.”

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Comments (78)

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  1. Triangle Drifter says:

    Well, I guess there should be no doubt there whether or not an offence was committed. The question is why were charges not laid?

    • Smh says:

      That’s okay…black people have had to break MANY LAWS to enjoy the freedoms we have to day…carry on soldiers

    • HEADS 1977 says:

      Where is the oba going to jail everyone? We don’t have any room left since their all full. Arresting & jailing people will bring this Island to it’s knees. You really think Dunky wants to be the Premier that take us back to 1977? Pepper spray was bad enough what next lock up the seniors. The OBA needs the black swing vote to win and that’s a fact so the other side of the coin needs to flip over and lat flat.

      The Governor should dissolve parliament and hold the election this Island is so divided by race that even the blind can see it. If we all stay away from the truth long enough it has a funny way of biting you in the A$$.

      • Lualaba says:

        Dude… the OBA don’t arrest anyone… that is the job of the police, who do not answer to the Government. The police report directly to the Govonors office.

        There is actually no reason to arrest anyone, they can be summonsed to court…

        Anyway… this IS NOT a black and white issue!!! It’s only some people that want to make it seem that way.. It’s a political issue, and the PLP (and union) acting like children who’s parent took the toy from them.

        Truthfully, if this exact same airport project was suggested by the PLP the union would back it 100%!!

      • Look both ways says:

        This is what happens when BIU,PLP,Tweed use seniors and children as screens for their illegal activity! And this is the behavior you want to lead Bermuda? Your own will be biting yours or have you forgotten 1998 to 2012?

      • Sickofantz says:

        You are right that the black swing vote needs to be with the OBA for them to win the next election. That is why the opposition are cleverly trying to stir up a race issue using ploys like the airport contract.

      • Goddtydty says:

        Just fine them a hefty amount. That will make them think of the value in protesting unlawfully versus in Peace. That will make them think about whether it is truly worthy it to them to break laws.

        Tolerance of this behavior will only continue the behavior. God is immovable on his Commandments. You need to be immovable on your laws or anarchy will reign!

    • Timing says:

      Why now? Why was this information not shared in March. It this issue less important to the CFJ?

      • Ringmaster says:

        @HEADS 1977. Unfortunately you are showing the same lack of knowledge to the law as the people assembled on Friday. Neither the OBA, nor PLP, jail anyone. The Police have the authority to arrest and the courts have the authority to convict. You would be correct had the proposal by the last PLP administration gone ahead, but fortunately the Police and Courts are separate and independent from Government interference or misuse.

    • Onion Juice says:

      So who is gonna charge de Government for making a F!@#ed up contract !!!!!!!!!!!

      • hmmm says:

        It isn’t.

        go read it online.

      • jt says:

        He said….as if it was really about the airport.

      • Sojourner says:

        You could not give a coherent argument on what is wrong with that contract even if your life depended on it….Burt loves you. If he becomes Premier he will shake your hand and mess with your pocket with the other. And when all is said and done and you ask where the money went he will tell you he can’t tell you

      • Earth watch police says:

        The same commission of enquiry that only asks questions that people don’t have to answer.

    • Onion Juice says:

      Slavery was law, Jim Crow was law and those who were effected by it defied de law ………….
      Sometime ya just gotta say …… de law !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Paradise Reclaimed says:

    Right on . . .

    • Jus' Askin' says:

      The ‘Freedom to Assemble’ of the Peaceful Concerned Citizens, on the HOA grounds was Denied/Blocked but that doesn’t matter I guess

      The People were Not Blocking the way but were merely waiting in line to get in/on the HOA grounds

      Had the HOA grounds not been Blocked off and Freedom of Assembly was allowed for ALL, the day would have went smoothly

      Vote UBA ~ United Bermuda Alliance

      • Zevon says:

        Whether or not they were in contravention of S12 of the Parliament Act is a matter of fact. If the rioters were brought before the courts, the court would determine the facts.

  3. Terry says:

    I knew all of this and thank you.

    The people did all of the above when they failed to move and obstructed.

    All by design.

  4. TJ says:

    There you have it. Although the protest was peaceful, it easy unlawful to block the access to parliament; for a second time this year, nonetheless. If you do jot adhere to the request of the officer hired to police the law, then you get what comes with that. The pepper spray was a bit excessive and I feel not targeted at the seniors; however, they did catch the excess of who it was meant for, which is unfortunate.

    • O'Brien says:

      It was non-violent (to a point), but query whether it was actually ‘peaceful’.

      If I block you from entering your property by simply refusing to move, knowing full well that you will attempt to get past me and have every right to do so…am I being peaceful? Or, by wrongfully obstructing you, am I willfully inviting a likely violent confrontation?

      For my part, I think once the protesters yesterday were warned that they were committing an offense and that force would be necessary if they didn’t move, they were no longer being ‘peaceful’ when they decided to stay put.

      • Facts says:

        The protesters had no intention of remaining peaceful. They got what they were set out for – an altercation.

  5. hmmm says:

    Surely it is the responsibility of organizers of protests to communicate the above to ensure that they don’t put the public who come out to support their campaign in jeopardy.

    I believe the police were informing the protesters on the day and giving them plenty of opportunity to stop breaking the laws.

    • hmmmmmmmmmmm says:

      why will they. it worked in march and that set the precedent and from now on it will be the rule of the day. when they cannot get what they want they will resort to mob mentality and shout loud enough that they will feel that everyone agree because we cannot be bothered to correct them because we are tired of talking to people who refuse to listen.

      Sad thing is that this can gp both ways. if you want mob mentality to rule then what happens when a bigger mob forms.

      everyone is tired and the sad thing is that this will continue while hose of us trying to move ahead and follow the law continue to be silent.

      • Maege says:

        Bermuda, we need England to come here like they did in the Turks and Caicos , and take over the runnng of our Island….we are in a very serious situation !!!!!

  6. No Laughing Matter says:

    Great – Now would be a good time for the PLP, BIU and their lawyers to brush up on Bermudian law concerning interference with the legislature, protesting and rioting.

  7. aceboy says:

    Burt Burgess and Furbert should be arrested for incitement

    • Marge says:

      Burt, Burgess and Furbert, should hang their heads in shame….but they will go to church tomorrow as good christian men….HOW THE HELL DO THEY SLEP AT NIGHT ? always remember God is watching you as the the song goes.

  8. wahoo says:

    $16,800 x ? = more than BIU has available.

  9. O.M.G says:

    I say every time the PLP make the followers walk out of work the union should be fined by the government. We are paying for you to sit on de street and do nothing. Stop breaking the law next time all the police have to do is arrest all that stands in the way. It’s great that your leader is teaching you how to break the law.

    • Facts says:

      “Stupid is as Stupid does.”


    • Marge says:

      Dunkley,please do not give in to these fools….do what you need to do, and do not give in to the demands of these lot….they have no idea why they are protesting….stand strong sir

  10. Community First says:

    Thank you for offering this legal lens.

    I remain curious as to what our next steps will move us toward healing in our Bermuda community.

    This type of escalation with the use of pepper spray is painful in so many ways. There are many sides to these volatile situations and many perceived vested interests. I don’t get a shared sense of trust yet at street level there was so much evidence of connection and caring.

    Our community is very tender and I hope we can use our tenderness for each other to stay connected and find a solution that works for Bermuda and all our people.

  11. CS says:

    Thank you for the detailed legal facts. The organizers were responsible for encouraging seniors, physically challenged, and minors in harms way and should be held to account.

  12. Jadon says:

    Legal or not. When more then 100 people protest that is telling you something! Listen to the people who elected you in!! Won’t have to worry about the UBP/OBA ever getting back in now… they are finished. Let’s see what name they come up with next…..

    • Legalgal says:

      100 out of how many thousand? They are not representative. They cannot hild our democratifally elected representatives hostage. They pretty much want to start a 1977 type riot with more race-fueled, hate speech.

    • Derek says:

      “Listen to the people that elected you in”.

      Do you honestly think more than 10% of the protesters voted OBA?

      If the vast majority of the electorate were absent from the protest, then surely the Government is mandated to proceed.

    • Bob says:

      The PLP, during their time in power, displayed on numerous occasions arrogance and indifference. This coupled with highly questionable deals and the untimely meltdown of the worlds economy allowed a dismantled and demoralized UBP to slap on a very thin coat of varnish and resume power. However, it appears that this bunch have not learned from their previous mistakes and are doing what many politicians do, i.e., they have overreached and it will likely result in their undoing.

      • hmmm says:

        It is the PLP who have once again overreached by causing this incident to happen..plenty of PLP were actively involved in supporting lawbreaking. the PLP called for the protest in the press.

    • InfidelGuy says:

      Legal or not? Since when does the amount of people determine whether or not you should “listen to the people”? If that were the case, then slavery would still be legal! That’s an asinine comment…next time think your idea through thoroughly before opening your stupid trap!

    • Earth watch police says:

      So what’s the problem when the oba lose the next election all our problems will be over you should be happy .I look forward to the day after party see you there.

    • John says:

      The chicken always come home to roost :) stay tuned

    • Noncents says:

      @ Jadon

      Legal or not is an incredibly important distinction.

      The crowd was warned that they were breaking the law and the police have a job to uphold which in this situation was to stop people from impeding access to parliament. Just because a 100 or so people don’t agree with a Government’s position does not give them (a significant minority) the ability to hijack the democratic process.

      The PLP are the opposition. It’s a very important role in a democratic society as they are expected to hold the Government accountable. That does not give them the right to implore individuals to break the law in an attempt to obstruct the democratically elected government from doing their job.

    • Hair says:

      Jadon, you saying 100 peeps plus, but there is 64,000 plus people on this island, so you fail on this issue!!!Woo Hoo

    • jt says:

      “The people” get listened to each election – all “the people”.

    • Ignorance is not bliss says:

      Assuming total voting aged Bermudians resident in Bermuda on Friday is 45,000 then 100 protesting represented approximately 0.25% of Bermudian voters. Does this mean 99.75% spoke more loudly by not protesting?

    • Ty says:

      @Jadon – The majority of us on this blog think you are an idiot. Should we listen to the majority?

  13. Family Man says:

    The video clearly shows at least one police officer being clubbed by a “peaceful protester”.

  14. Shutthemdown says:

    Laws are laws.
    Written by the politicians we the people elect.

    We can and will at anytime protest.

    You govern at our consent.

  15. Average Bermudian says:

    Rule number one – never attempt to break through a protest or picket line.(especially if it is peaceful)

    It only will lead to chaos. We have seen this throughout the world.

    Reminds me of the Martin Luther King marches that were met with water guns, batons and dogs.
    How has history judged those actions by the authorities?

    We saw the same thing at Belco years ago.


    • Hmmm says:

      no such rule. You cannot use your rights to restrict the rights of others, or you are breaking the law. People have the right to go and work, no line is allowed to stop them.

  16. Vote for Me says:

    The information from the Center for Justice is helpful.

    In summary, they appear to be commenting that blocking public entrances is an offence. The question still remains… what is the best course of action before Friday? It would be helpful if they directly comment on the appropriateness of using pepper spray indiscriminately, in the presence of both seniors and children.

    Whether you consider it to be small or big, there is active opposition to the airport.

    There must be an effective method for dealing with what is clearly a country divided and at its tipping point.

    • Father Ted says:

      The best course of action yesterday would have been to let the protesters have their day, announce the new date and point out the information above and the consequences of blocking parliament. Then ensure that a path is clear for MP’s to enter next week.

      Why the police did what they did so late in the day is a mystery and a huge misjudgement. It was already too late to debate the issue.

      Nobody should have been manhandled, let alone pepper sprayed.

      I wish a speedy recovery to anyone injured yesterday.

    • Up D hill says:

      What! Country divided? Because you see 100 Hooligans carry out orders from Furbert and Burt! Your just as blind !

    • Ty says:

      @Vote for me – The best course of action would have been for them to get out of the way. No if’s and’s or buts. MOVE and let the GOVT do the work they are supposed to do.

      Why were the PLP politicians not telling the crowd that THEY HAVE TO MOVE to let the Govt do their work including the PLP team. Why were the PLP team not trying to get into the H.O.A?? Was the crowd stopping them from entering the premises also??

      What do YOU think the best course of action should have been??

  17. Imitation Crab Meat says:

    A law written and passed in 1926? Lol, I bet all of you who have contrary opinions on this issue want to “Make Bermuda Great Again…”

  18. Enough is enough ! says:

    Hopefully next week the British Navy will do some routine naval exercises close to Bermuda. Premier Dunkley maybe you could invite them into Hamilton Harbour to tie up on front street for a couple of days of scheduled leave ! May I suggest Perhaps next Thursday !

    • What?? says:

      Hopefully those in charge have enough sanity to ignore foolish ideas such as this.

    • Hey says:

      Yep, a very good idea, but the Governor will be one step ahead right now. We have witnessed shocking behavior from PLP MPs, and the union bosses on Friday, so who knows what they planning for next week.

  19. No Longer A Memeber says:

    There should be fines levied against the PLP and the BIU? They incited this and will continue to incite bad behavior. Mr Haywards actions were deplorable, but obviously, he will continue to be a union leader (if you want to call that leading).

  20. Bobby Jones says:

    The PLP knew what they were doing. They wanted the seniors to be right there at the gates and did not want them to move. They wanted a confrontation so they can claim that their people were so called “Disrespected”.
    This protest about the airport is nothing more than the PLP trying to bring down the Government, they want the power and will do anything to get it, If that means destroying Bermuda’s economy, they will.

  21. John says:

    One would have thought that the opposition leader would know these rules before he ordered the March he could be seen on video shouting show me a law that says …….

    • hmmm says:

      Burt called for people to protest, then he was giving the public bad advice. Then the public acted in a manner because of the advice, which led to the results….

      I don’t see how the OBA are being blamed for any of this…the police actions were nothing to do with the OBA, the OBA didn’t call for a protest and the OBA didn’t give out misinformation about the laws.

  22. Rhonda says:

    If black people in Bermuda obeyed all laws..even unjust ones.. .we would still be segregated. .or worse …still be enslaved…

    However, have we not learned that diplomacy works better than war…

    • No Laughing Matter says:

      What unjust law? The law that says you CANNOT OBSTRUCT the legislature? You call that an unjust law? It’s a common sense law that most civilized countries in this world have…SMH! #facepalm! #eyeroll!

    • No Laughing Matter says:

      SMH…Facepalm…Daftness at its finest.

    • 32n64w says:

      Please list the ‘unjust’ laws you’re referring to Rhonda.

  23. Just saying says:

    For those that broke the law they should be charge and let the courts decide what happens next.

  24. the real Terry says:

    @Rhonda, That has to be one of the most stupid statements made on this site and there have been plenty. So nice to know that black people are above the law and do not have to obey them all.

  25. mmm says:

    Um glad the Centre for Justice has spoken on the rights of the those wishing to engage in peaceful protest and those needing excess to the House of Assembly to conduct business. The challenge comes is in seeking to persuade the legislators to take a certain course of action, cause once something is law, it is so much more difficult to reverse..and with the airport there are penalties already in place for failing to sign, or withdrawing. Perhaps we can sell a few school buildings in view of the declining student enrollment numbers and forward the cash towards the cost of a new airport. No doubt, the Chamber of Commerce has already met with contingency plans discussed, as well as other bodies.

  26. Malcolm Raynor says:

    Yes it was unlawful to block the gate, but so is jay walking, driving at 21 mph and over, smoking marijuana at a football game, drinking alcoholic beverages during the May 24 parade. The list can go on. The police uses their discretion in certain situations and should have used better judgement than trying to forcibly clear a path.

  27. Sad Day says:

    We are in very serious times in this country. I never witnessed anything like this in my life I only know the stories that was told to me by my parents and grandparents. This has affected many people young and old in our community. Come on OBA bring the country together, if Mr. Dunkley can’t do it put someone else there who can within your party.

  28. unus sed leo says:

    This whole thing was orchestrated…can’t rightly say by whom but my guess would be plp.
    They want that checkbook.
    This shows a willingness to cause civil unreast to achieve a goal.
    Problem is… plp put us into indentured slavery through owing monies overseas… I see all the Canadian companies they hired… don’t lie… don’t you dare… plp hired… Overseas every project… the airport is and represents work for all!
    That behaviour yesterday was disgraceful.
    Sticks and umbrellas were brandished and weilded… threats were made… then you play like your innocent as all get out… ohhhohhh… poking police in the face with an umbrella… ennit?
    what?… you could easily have blinded someone.
    This is an abundantly obvious ploy to get back awww dat free money and hop onnah nother… (another), spending spree and more debt….
    I personally say no plp.
    You gets no checkbook.
    We are in anuff debt now… (enough)…
    enuff is enuff!
    Nah!… stop yah eegrunce.

  29. swing voter says:

    I call it as I saw it. The organizers and some MPs behavior was disgusting. Law makers should know the law, no excuses for them. The decision to march in a small unit of ‘riot police’ was just plain stupid. The OIC of that decision should resign. The video and photos are more than enough to identify and prosecute.

  30. Riley says:

    If a General Election were held tomorrow – my suspicion is Bermuda’s great silent majority – conservative, hard working, law abiding, genuinely wanting the country to succeed regardless of who is running it – would give the Milkman and OBA another majority.

    What the PLP have sadly forgotten is that it was exactly this sort of dumb posturing that cost them elections they should have won in the 70s, 80s and even 90s. Why would any sane person entrust the country to the rabble assembled by Burgess and Furbert with the sole intention of disrupting a legitimate, sitting legislature?

    Also, I do have to wonder if the threatening innuendo from certain PLP MPs has more to do with a certain Commission of Inquiry lingering in the background than the proposed airport scheme (which I too think is a dumb way of doing it).

  31. Carpe Diem says:

    The Centre has out this very well. You are entitled to protest but not to block access. So if you engage in civil disobedience and do prevent access, then you can expect to be arrested.