Mayor forbids music and poetry at demonstration in Heerlen

When members of the Climate Coalition Parkstad wanted to organize a demonstration on 14 March 2021 as part of the national Climate Alert they were forbidden by the mayor of Heerlen, among other things, to recite poetry or perform a self-written climate song. According to the right to protest, mayors are not allowed to interfere with the content or form of a demonstration, which is partly why the organizers appealed. They are assisted in this by the PILP-NJCM.

Immediately after announcing the protest on March 14, 2021, the mayor of Heerlen decided to impose a large number of restrictions on the demonstration. For example, no more than 200 people were allowed to attend, the names of the speakers had to be communicated to the municipality in advance, no performances were allowed and making music was not allowed. The PILP-NJCM, on behalf of the coalition and a number of national organizations, objected to this immediately.

The mayor, however, stands by his decision and rejects all counts made by the climate organizations. Therefore, an appeal was filed with the court. The importance of this case for the right to protest goes beyond the demonstration on March 14.

Mayors may impose restrictions on a protest, but only if they are based on the law and human rights and if these restrictions are necessary and proportional.

The ban on performances was intended in part to discourage passersby from joining the demonstration. However, one of the purposes of a demonstration is precisely to inspire and motivate others. Thus, this ban goes directly against the core of the right to protest and is therefore disproportionate.

In addition, recovering damages from the organizers is prohibited by international law. This in fact increases the threshold to organize demonstrations and therefore has a ‘chilling effect’. For our full argumentation, read our appeal here (in Dutch).

Read more about the right to protest here.