Solidarity protests with Palestinian people banned in at least 12 EU countries, finds new analysis, six months on from the horrific Hamas attack on 7 October

04 April 2024 | Press

Protests banned on grounds of protecting ‘public order’ and ‘security’

  • Authorities have resorted to excessive force in multiple countries, including the use of pepper spray, kettling and the deployment of police dogs
  • Palestinian flags and scarves also widely banned
  • European and international NGOs urge the Commission to act on restrictions

The European Civic Forum, Civil Liberties Union for Europe, CIVICUS, European Network Against Racism and Solidar are calling on the European Commission to address at the highest political level the unlawful restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression imposed by member states since the dramatic escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine last year.

A new analysis, published by the European Civic Forum, shows that European governments have repeatedly cracked down on individuals and organisations expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people in marches, demonstrations and cultural activities.

Six months on from 7 October, people in Europe have continued to take to the streets to peacefully protest against the violence, to show solidarity with the victims and to call for the respect of human rights and international law.

These protests are unfolding amid an increase in hate speech and hate crimes targeting both Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe. Palestinians, people of Arab descent, and Muslim people (and those perceived as such) have been disproportionately affected by these restrictions, with racial profiling sometimes being used as justification. With tensions and polarisation in society rising, it is all the more important that authorities act responsibly and ensure that everyone’s rights are respected and that people are allowed to protest freely and peacefully.


An alarming pattern of restrictions

In at least 12 EU member states, authorities have taken disproportionate measures, including the pre-emptive banning of protests based on apparent risk to “public order” and “security”.  Such cases have been documented in Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Sweden. In several member states, the courts have overturned protest bans.

The crackdown has also included the use of excessive force in at least seven member states, including pepper spray, deployment of police dogs, physical aggression, and kettling tactics, perpetuating a climate of fear and intimidation and violating international human rights standards.

Case studies from Italy and Germany reveal some of the disproportionate measures taken by authorities to quell protests supporting Palestine. In Milan, Italian police used batons to disperse pro-Palestine demonstrators who gathered despite an official ban on protests on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January. Other incidents of excessive force have been recorded in Austria, Belgium, France, Greece and the Netherlands.

Restrictions on freedom of expression have also been imposed, targeting symbols associated with Palestine. The Palestinian flag and wearing the Keffiyeh, along with other symbols indicating support for Palestine, have reportedly been banned in countries such as Germany, Italy, and Spain, further limiting the ability of individuals to express solidarity.

Several member states, including Austria, Germany and France have conflated legitimate criticism of Israeli authorities with antisemitism and silenced the voice of Palestinian and Jewish activists, for example by cancelling events. In Germany alone, 139 cases of cultural repressions (October 7th- January 31st) were documented, including instances where access to venues was withdrawn or events were cancelled, smear campaigns, and threats of defunding were made for expressing views on Palestine.

Restrictions have been documented in the UK,[1] where the government has repeatedly smeared protesters and put pressure on the police to further restrict protests. Recently, the home secretary James Cleverly  proposed to further limit protest rights by increasing the minimum notice period of six days to support police with large-scale protests. Last year, then-home secretary Suella Braverman wrote to police chiefs, encouraging them to “consider” whether using the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” could be considered a racially aggravated offence. In addition, she labelled the demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians as “hate marches”. More recently, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, delivered an address in which he appeared to echo Braverman’s sentiments, later summoning police chiefs to Downing Street to criticise their handling of protests.

“In the context of the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the plausibility of genocide and the new tragic developments on the ground in Gaza and across Israel/Palestine, people continue to protest and to urgently call for accountability and justice.

“However, our monitoring shows that rather than listening to the people, European governments are repeatedly opting to limit civic space and to silence individuals and organisations expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people,” said Aarti Narsee, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer at the European Civic Forum.

In light of our monitoring, we strongly urge European governments to adhere to their international legal obligations and safeguard the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. It is imperative that authorities refrain from resorting to excessive force and instead prioritise the preservation of democratic principles and space.

We call on the European Commission to address these restrictions on peaceful assembly and expression in the Annual Rule of Law Cycle and make recommendations to member states to respect the right to peaceful assembly at all times, as per international law.

You can read the full analysis here.[2]

[1] These examples do not appear in the full analysis, which focuses on EU member states.

[2] This analysis forms part of the European Civic Forum’s submission to the European Commission’s Rule of Law consultation.


Media Contacts:

Benjamin Goodwin, ECF:

Aarti Narsee, ECF:




Civil Liberties Union for Europe

European Civic Forum

European Network Against Racism