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Can I deny entry or remove unwanted guests from a political rally I co-organise?

If we organise an officially authorised political rally in a public place for a particular cause (Palestinian solidarity, covid-19 restrictions, generic anticapitalism) and guests turn up who we don't want to be associated with (known antisemites, known violent extremists, salafists) — can we refuse them to participate in our rally and/or make them leave? Can I make participation conditional upon respecting our code of conduct?

I'm interested in answers for Germany and other countries.

By guests, I mean anyone who attends the rally, not speakers. I assume that the organisers in any case usually restrict access to the podium to invitees, but would rarely/never restrict attendance to a public rally to invited visitors.

I'm interested in answers for the regular situation, not considering current (temporary) restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic (in which getting official authorisation may in many countries not happen anyway).

(This question is inspired by media reports of radicalisation within demonstrations against covid-19 restrictions in Germany, with at least some organisers cancelling their announced rallies completely after far-right groups encouraged each other to turn up in support. This was from a period during which such rallies were still being authorised. I have anecdotally heard of incidents before where left-wing groups struggled to keep neo-nazis away from pro-Palestine demonstrations or how to deal with radical nationalists in leftist environmental groups.)

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    Do you want answers to include that many western countries don't allow peaceful assembly due to COVID? – Studoku Jan 4 at 13:10
  • @Studoku No — although those are implicitly excluded already by the fact I'm asking about authorised rallies specifically, I've edited for clarification to state explicitly that I'm interested in an answer independent of current pandemic-related restrictions. – gerrit Jan 4 at 13:17
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    Why is this tagged as trespass if the event is being held in a public place? – Rock Ape Jan 4 at 14:28
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    @RickApe With a private gathering, people become trespassers as soon as I tell them to leave and they refuse. Part of the question is whether there is an analogue to that when I organise a public rally. I don't mean it is literal trespassing, but I have chosen the tag because I think it still relates to "showing unwanted guests the door" type of "trespass". Feel free to replace it by more suitable tags. – gerrit Jan 4 at 14:33
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    How public a public space are we talking? Are you selling tickets to enter a theater or ampatheater or similarly closed space? Or is this in the middle of a public park or other common use land without a fee for use? – hszmv Jan 4 at 15:36
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This would seem to fall under "negative" freedom of association; that is, the freedom to not associate with certain other people.

This article discusses the matter in the context of individuals who refused to join a trade union: the ECHR decided that the right to not join a union is just as much a part of freedom of association as the right to join one.

By extension, if you decide to hold a meeting (which is also part of the freedom of association), then you have the right to exclude people that you don't want to associate with.

You might have a problem if you want to demonstrate in a public place: the undesirable people have just as much right to turn up as you do. However if you have had to get police approval for your demonstration (there is a bunch of ECHR law covering that) then you might be able to tell the police that those people are not part of your demonstration, and ask that they be treated as an unauthorised demonstration. It would be up to the police to take appropriate action at that point.

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    The final paragraph is the critical point here. – gerrit Jan 4 at 14:24
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    If its a concern in a public meeting then you should probably discuss it with the police beforehand. – Paul Johnson Jan 4 at 15:32
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    At least in most US jurisdictions, the authorization to protest covers the place and time, not the people. You don't get some special right to say who is covered by the permit just because you applied for it. The permit doesn't let you authorize individual sub-protests, it authorizes a protest. – David Schwartz Jan 5 at 1:20
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    Note that the OP is not talking of protest per-se but of rally. Which can for example be a speaker and a group of people listening. Also, I think "demonstration" or "association" is the more correct generic term here. Anyway, what you say does overlap with what the above discussion converges to. The point made here is informing the police about certain people recognized to be in conflict with the group of people demonstrating. That doesnt mean even the police can force them to leave, as long as they behave normally. – Tchakabam Jan 5 at 4:15
  • @DavidSchwartz This is Germany. There is some kind of official system for organizing protests, they are allowed and well regulated. I can't imagine that there would be no way to exclude anti-semites from joining your protest against capitalism. – user253751 Jan 5 at 19:24
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In Germany, the organizer or someone designated by them can exclude people from the event, but enforcement is up to the police.

A police coordinator will be near the organizer during the entire event. Stewards report disturbances they cannot clear themselves to the organizer, who then coordinates with police.

A good summary is on the ver.di website.

In practice, how much of enforcement is done by stewards and how much is done by police depends a bit on the nature of the event. The black bloc ejects troublemakers on their own and doesn't expect help, while a Kurdish demo will selectively ask for help with Turkish nationalists, and large events with thousands of stewards will play it entirely safe (which is what the ver.di website describes).

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  • ...while right-block groups break the restrictions imposed upon them by the laws and then get dispersed as the demonstration is no longer legal. Then the same stewards that shall keep unwanted elements out act to send everybody home. – Trish Jan 5 at 11:54
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So given your circumstances described, in the United States it would be difficult to restrict people who agree with you (essentially those who are "right for the wrong reasons" in terms of why they support your opinions). There may be a fee assessed with the permit since there will likely be police to keep all those showing up safe, however it would be illegal to charge a rally a higher rate based on increased security (this largely comes up in college settings in the U.S. as even most privately funded schools take grant money from the government and will risk losing it if they engage in "view point discrimination". In the U.S., the level of government giving the money doesn't matter as all sub-national governments must comply with the Federal Constitution.). The best recorse is to discuss the concern with the police and identify groups that are not aligned with you and let the police handle the situation. Understand that they might not have out and out arrest power (In the U.S. waving signs of wrong support can't really get the cops to arrest them... they have to be doing something that is actual physical violence.). The other thing you can do is continue to stress that your rally is not supporting bigotry. After all, you have the podium and the microphone, they do not... and if they aren't invited speakers, trying to wrest the podium/microphone from you is something that they can be arrested for (theft is a crime, even if it is to say something into the microphone and give it back).

Were you in a ticketed venue, you have more power as you are not letting in the general public, only those who payed for access. Since is a ticket is a contract, there's some rights that are given up by purchasing a ticket and you or other event organizers can still ask them to leave. If they continue to stay, private security can escort them off the premise and potentially involve police. I've seen a fair few controversial political figures who's ticketed lectures get an attempt to shout it down from an audicence member only for them to be escorted out by security (a fair few even point out they always do a question/answer session following their lecture and THAT would be an appropriate time to voice critical comments.).

Personally, I would also remember to keep an open mind in the audience... if you don't want their bigotry supporting your cause, perhaps there's no more effective way to shut it down than to show you can support a controversial position for reasons other than hatred of a group of people. There is an argument for a pro-Palestinian position that can reject Anti-Semitism and an argument for a Pro-Isreal position that can reject an anti-Islamic or Anti-Palestinian agreement... what's remarkable is putting these two ideals at the front of the political controversy will more likely resolve the issue, not make it worse. The best defense against speech you disagree with is always more speech. As noted civil rights activist Daryl Davis has said, and more impressively, demonstrated, "When two enemies are talking, they are not fighting." Considering the type of enemies he has turned into close friends, he might be onto something there.

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Can a member of the public be denied access to a public place during an "officially authorised" event?

In England and Wales - Yes

A person's freedom of movement at public assemblies may be restricted by the imposition of conditions described at s.14 of the Public Order Act 1986...

(1) If the senior police officer, having regard to the time or place at which and the circumstances in which any public assembly is being held or is intended to be held, reasonably believes that—

(a) it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, or

(b) the purpose of the persons organising it is the intimidation of others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do, or to do an act they have a right not to do,

he may give directions imposing on the persons organising or taking part in the assembly such conditions as to the place at which the assembly may be (or continue to be) held, its maximum duration, or the maximum number of persons who may constitute it, as appear to him necessary to prevent such disorder, damage, disruption or intimidation.

(2) In subsection (1) “the senior police officer” means—

(a) in relation to an assembly being held, the most senior in rank of the police officers present at the scene, and

(b) in relation to an assembly intended to be held, the chief officer of police.

(3) A direction given by a chief officer of police by virtue of subsection (2)(b) shall be given in writing.

(4) A person who organises a public assembly and knowingly fails to comply with a condition imposed under this section is guilty of an offence, but it is a defence for him to prove that the failure arose from circumstances beyond his control.

(5) A person who takes part in a public assembly and knowingly fails to comply with a condition imposed under this section is guilty of an offence, but it is a defence for him to prove that the failure arose from circumstances beyond his control.

(6) A person who incites another to commit an offence under subsection (5) is guilty of an offence.

(7) [Repealled]

(8) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (4) is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale or both.

(9) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (5) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(10) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (6) is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale or both.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64/section/14?timeline=false

Note that even if s.14 is not engaged for whatever reason, the police have a number of powers to prevent (and deal with) public disorder, breaches of the peace etc.

Also note that there is no requirement to inform the authorities if the rally is "static", however the organisers of parades or marches must inform the police 6 days in advance and s.12 of the 1986 Act details similar provisions as above.

https://www.gov.uk/protests-and-marches-letting-the-police-know

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64/section/12?timeline=false

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  • I'm no lawyer and may be reading this wrong or missing something, but to me this seems to answer a slightly different question. This shows that the police can enforce a ban on a particular person attending/participating in a demonstration. OP's question seems to be whether the organisers can require the police to do so against individuals of the organisers' choice. – Chris H Jan 5 at 8:20

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