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7SA CRIME QUARTERLY NO. 62 • DECEMBER 2017Lawyering protest:critique and creativityWhere to from here in thepublic interest legal sector?* Lisa Chamberlain is the deputy director of the Centre for AppliedLegal Studies and a senior lecturer at the School of Law,University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). Lisa holds a BA LLB (Wits)and an LLM (University of Michigan). Gina Snyman is a memberof the Johannesburg Bar and the in-house counsel for the Centrefor Applied Legal Studies, School of Law, Wits. Gina holds anLLB (UPE) and an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisationin Africa (UP). The authors are indebted to Tarin Page and RudoMhiribidi, who provided valuable research assistance in thepreparation of this article.Frequent protests, arising from a diversity of motivations, are a feature of the South Africanlandscape. Despite the right to protest being entrenched in section 17 of the Constitution, it isunder threat, and communities seeking to protest increasingly risk criminalisation. This articleidentifies some of the emerging themes in the protest landscape and the way the right to protestis being suppressed. Four dominant themes are highlighted through the lens of the experiencesof the public interest legal sector: the conflation of notification and permission; heavy-handedstate responses to protests; the abuse of bail procedures; and the use of interdicts. Law hasbecome at least one of the sites of contestation in the protest arena. The political space heldopen by the existence of the right to protest is thus closing as a result of violations of this right. Itis therefore both useful and necessary to interrogate the role of lawyers in such contestation. Thisarticle also examines the context and nature of the public interest legal sector’s response to theseemerging themes.Lisa Chamberlain and Gina Snyman*[email protected][email protected]There should be little need for protest ina functioning participatory democracy.1Yet protest is an entrenched part of theSouth African psyche, and a core tactic ofactivists pushing for change of all kinds. InSouth Africa, protest is not just a tactic ofrevolution, but a protected human right.Nevertheless, protesters often risk arrestand criminalisation, given that protest isfrequently a means of last resort, used whenfrustrated communities can no longer justifycontinued fruitless attempts at engagement.2Part one of this article touches briefly onthe drivers of protest, while part two setsthe scene with an outline of the regulatorysystem applicable to protest. Part threeexamines various ways in which the right toprotest is being suppressed. Lastly, partfour discusses the role of the public interestlegal sector in responding to these attemptsat suppression.

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