Freedom of Assembly

Our vision is to see the family unit re-established, the extinction of fear amongst children to hug their grandparents, friends to “meet and greet and break bread together”; followers to congregate to pray and worship together or to celebrate or mourn, with a sense of community, offering the support that is as vital to humans as the air they breathe.

From Wikipedia: Freedom of peaceful assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right or ability of people to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue, and defend their collective or shared ideas. The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, a political right and a civil liberty.

The terms freedom of assembly and freedom of association may be used to distinguish between the freedom to assemble in public places and the freedom to join an association. Freedom of assembly is often used in the context of the right to protest, while freedom of association is used in the context of labour rights .

According to The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly, South Africa is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:

The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies: The Use of Force:

International Legal Rules

Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:

In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.

All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.

National Legislation

Section 9(2) of the 1993 Gatherings Act gives the police broad powers to order the dispersal of an assembly and to use force to achieve that objective: If an order to disperse has been given and has not been complied with by the deadline given by the police

(b)… a member of the Police may order the members of the Police under his command to disperse the persons concerned and may for that purpose order the use of force, excluding the use of weapons likely to cause serious bodily injury or death.

(c) The degree of force which may be so used shall not be greater than is necessary for dispersing the persons gathered and shall be proportionate to the circumstances of the case and the object to be attained.

Once again, the pandemic highlighted across several levels the ease with which this basic freedom can be lost. Through the propaganda of fear, humans were not only stripped of their rights to attend any protests (and force was exhibited disproportionally to the peaceful protests undertaken by parents and children defending their rights of freedom of choice).

This was taken to a whole different level with the prohibiting of meeting to celebrate a happy occasion such as their long-awaited weddings, or to mourn the passing away of a friend or family member. Furthermore, we lost our rights to visit our loved ones or even our frail elderly parents and grandparents. What held many people together like family units, friendships and religious institutions were now illegal and out of reach.

Humans are social beings, they need human interaction to survive and to thrive. And for many, the additional prohibition to places of faith and prayer left them feeling isolated and alone.

In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell shares the fascinating story of the people of Roseto, Pa, a town entirely made up of citizens who came from the village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy. Intrigued by the extremely low incidence of disease in Roseto, including no coronary artery disease in anyone younger than 55, medical researchers in the 1960s dedicated themselves to studying this phenomenon. The results shocked them. Rosetans did not follow a specific diet and obesity did exist; they did not gym or train and smokers were prevalent. Their relatives living elsewhere had a high incidence of disease, ruling out a genetic explanation. Nearby towns with the same climate and environmental influences had an incidence of heart disease 3 times that of their Rosetan neighbours.

With no answers offered by the medical research team, social scientists were consulted. They described a unique sharing of experiences that defined the town’s social structure. They discovered a feeling of trust and security among Rosetans because the people of the town always had someone they knew and who knew them to turn to for support. They concluded that the extraordinary health of this unique population could only be explained in terms of “extended family” and “community.”

People came together physically, offering mental and emotional support.

Yet, in sharp contrast, the laws implemented over the last 2 years have left many geriatrics alone to fend for themselves and some even died alone in hospitals with their families unable to see them. Beloved fathers and mothers and grandparents spent their last days unable to connect with their families or feel their love and support. This was a devastating violation of their human rights and any moral compass that we hold as humans.

Freedom Alliance stands for these basic human rights to be defended and for the family unit to always be protected and encouraged.

In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit.

-Marge Kennedy