Lawyer Michael Bishop argued that 11 of 21 Social Justice Coalition (SJC) members could not be charged with convening a gathering since they only attended it in September last year.
At the start of their trial on Wednesday, the group admitted to convening and attending the gathering at the city’s civic centre but pleaded not guilty on the basis that their actions were not criminal.
They had wanted to speak to mayor Patricia de Lille in person about their frustration at the city’s perceived inaction over proper sanitation in informal settlements.
The alternative count was of attending or convening a prohibited gathering in contravention of the Regulations of Gatherings Act (RGA).
“On this count, the accused will argue that the State failed to establish that any of the accused committed a criminal offence,” Bishop argued.
He said that despite not giving notice to the city as the RGA required, the gathering had not qualified as prohibited.
The city’s responsible officer could exercise discretion once notice had been received and send a note to the convenor to prohibit the gathering.
A prohibition note could also be sent if there was credible information about imminent disruption, injury or damage to property.
Gatherings outside courts, Parliament, and the Union Buildings were automatically prohibited.
The State argued that the group’s formal admissions to being present were enough to secure a conviction under the RGA.