In London tonight Critical Mass takes to the streets in its monthly action to highlight and protest at the rising number of deaths of cyclists on the roads in London. The meet up also highlighted issues during the Olympics which led to mass illegal arrests. Critical Mass actions happen all over the world and have become a powerful symbol of protest.
On January 31st, 2008, some 30 protesters participated in a Critical Mass bicycle ride in Tel Aviv to protest the siege of Gaza. During the protest, plainclothes police arrested Jonathan Pollack because they recognised him from previous protests, and as they claimed in court , assumed he was the organiser of and figurehead for the event. Jonathan read this before his sentencing.
“Your honour, once found guilty, it is then customary for the accused to ask the court for leniency and express remorse for having committed the offence. I find myself unable to do so, however. From its beginning, this trial contained practically no disagreements over the facts. As the indictment states, I indeed rode my bicycle, alongside others, through the streets of Tel Aviv to protest the siege on Gaza. And indeed, while riding our bicycles, which are legally vehicles that belong on the road, we may have slowed down the traffic slightly. The sole, trivial disagreement in this case revolves around testimonies heard from the police detectives who claimed I played a leading role throughout the protest bicycle ride – something I as well as the rest of the defence witnesses deny.
As said earlier, it is customary at this point of the proceedings to sound remorseful, and I would indeed like to voice my regrets regarding one particular aspect of that day’s events: If there is remorse in my heart, it is that, just as I argued during the trial, I did not play a prominent role in the protest that day, and thus did not fulfil my duty to do everything within my power to change the unbearable situation of Gaza’s inhabitants and bring to an end Israel’s control over the Palestinians.
His honour has stated during the court case, and will most likely state again in the future, that a trial is not a matter of politics but rather a matter of law. To this I reply that there is hardly anything to this trial except political disagreement. This court may have impeded the mounting of an appropriate defence when it refused to hear arguments regarding political selectiveness in the police’s conduct, but even from the testimonies that were admitted, it became clear that such selectiveness exists.
Both the subject of my alleged offence and the motivation behind it were political. This is something that cannot be sidestepped. The state of Israel maintains an illegitimate, inhuman, and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip, which is still occupied territory according to international law. This siege carried out in my name and in yours as well, sir – in fact in all our names – is a cruel collective punishment inflicted on ordinary citizens, residents of the Gaza strip, subjects without rights under Israeli occupation.
In the face of this reality, and as a stance against it, we chose on 31st January, 2008, to exercise the freedom of speech afforded to Jewish citizens of Israel. Yet it appears that here in our one-of-many faux democracies in the Middle East, even this freedom is no longer granted, even to society’s privileged children.
I am not surprised by the courts decision to convict me, despite having no doubt in my mind that our actions on that day correspond to the most basic, elementary definitions of a persons right to protest.
Indeed, as the prosecution pointed out, a suspended sentence hung over my head at the time of the bicycle protest, having been convicted before under an identical article of law. And Although I still maintain that I did not commit any offence whatsoever, I was aware of the possibility that under Israeli justice, my suspended sentence would be imposed.
I must add that if His Honour decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts it’s vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation.”
– Jonathan Pollak
Statement taken from Anarchists Against the Wall