In another legal challenge prompted by rules brought in in the name of the pandemic, a 41-year-old father of three has become the first foreigner in Portugal to get himself arrested to make a point.
Marine engineer Gilad Shub insists that he has “no interest” in drawing attention to himself, but has “a conscience”.
“When people start to rescind freedoms and dictate measures, I can’t help but go back to the 2nd World War”, he explained.
His protest – which began in the municipal market of Tábua in Central Portugal – is something he feels he had to do to ensure his children – all under the age of eight – don’t look at him in the future and ask “why did you do nothing?”
Gilad and his family arrived in Portugal from Spain two years ago. They had endured the harrowing first lockdown in Spain in which armed police patrolled the streets, not even allowing children outside. Almost the minute it ended, they fled to Portugal because they saw this country as one that has by and large taken a much more ‘calm’ approach to confinements.
But certain measures persist: mask mandates in public indoor spaces being one; proof of vaccinations to enter restaurants or other venues being another – and, as a number of critics have insisted, these mandates make little sense.
A judge in Loulé recently ruled in favour of parents opposing the mask mandate in a local school (click here).
In Gilad’s case, he approached the issue differently.
He first read the Portuguese Constitution (which he describes as a “very good, very clear document”); he then consulted a lawyer – and finally went to the GNR.
In Gilad’s mindset, the GNR (and all other security forces in Portugal) are in place to uphold the Constitution, and protect citizens’ rights.
His interpretation of the Constitution is that there is no such thing enshrined in it as ‘a State of Calamity’ – as such all the measures brought in by government decree on December 1 last year (click here) are unconstitutional, and therefore cannot be enforced.
He set out his arguments in an hour-long conversation with his local chief of police – but the upshot was that the GNR would still be following the State of Calamity directives.
Gilad then called a ‘meeting’ to find well over 120 local people (mainly foreigners) agreed with his discomfort over rules which are not backed by the law of the land, and which have been imposed in the name of a pandemic dogged by questionable data.
“Remember those judges in Madeira who ruled in favour of releasing Germans being held on the basis of PCR tests”, he told us. “That was a case in point: the tests were found to be unfit for purpose; the data was no good – and the judges released the Germans, against the wishes of the health authorities (click here). This would never have happened if people hadn’t questioned the sense of what was being done to them.”
As a result of Gilad’s meeting, it was decided that the next step would be to force a kind of peaceful confrontation. Thus a group turned up outside Tábua municipal market, and informed those inside that they would be coming in without masks.
Suffice it to say, entry was ‘barred’. The group then called the police – saying it was their right to enter without masks on, and the rest is ‘history’.
Gilad, as chief spokesperson, insisted on getting himself arrested. The police had no intention of arresting him, but he wanted to make the point that it was not acceptable to lose basic rights due to rules that have no backing in law.
The logical conclusion to this story would have been that Gilad appeared in court, pleaded guilty to the charge of civil disobedience, and accepted his fine/ order to perform community service.
But he refuses to plead guilty because he believes his arrest was unlawful.
And so judges will be left to decide yet another matter thrown up by rules imposed in the name of a pandemic that has never been completely transparent.
“All I am trying to do is start a conversation which isn’t being had about our basic rights and how far the government can go to take away those rights”, he told us.
The Resident will update this story once Gilad gets his day in court.