Dangerous demonstrations

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Dangerous demonstrations

The Constitutional Court overturned a 15-year-old provision in the law on demonstrations that banned outdoor rallies after sunset. Nighttime demonstrations have been outlawed since 1994 to maintain public order. More than 340 people have been placed in custody by the prosecution or police and 900 others are on trial for violating the clause. Few are likely to walk free after the latest court decision because most are also held on other charges under the demonstration law.

But allowing outdoor rallies at night will likely affect future protest rituals, provoking emotional rallies that stretch into the night until daybreak.

The candlelight protests against the resumption of U.S. beef imports often began as peaceful affairs in the daytime, and turned more violent as darkness approached.

Some activist groups have already begun organizing large-scale rallies after dark to celebrate the court ruling.

With the Constitutional Court guaranteeing the right to hold public protests, time of day can no longer prevent people from holding rallies.

But violent clashes at night could inflict considerable damage on individual citizens as well and on the country. That’s why the punishments for illegal nighttime activities are heavier.

The Constitutional Court moved to limit after-dark protest activities in 1994. The two judges who defended the move did so because of the potential for danger that can arise with nighttime demonstrations.

This time, the court has ruled that the controversial clause is incompatible with the Constitution and ordered it to be rewritten. Legislators must examine similar regulations in foreign countries and write the new provision in such a way as to uphold the court ruling while also installing safeguards to prevent nighttime rallies from turning violent.

Law enforcement officials could examine other clauses that ban protesters from disrupting the public order or seeking shelter in residential facilities, as well as other regulations on noise and traffic to rein in mob behavior and keep nighttime rallies from escalating into violence.

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