Friday, September 16, 2011


Will HPD unlawfully clear away protests during APEC? They’re rehearsing already

As APEC approaches and Oahu ramps up readiness, law enforcement is put on notice that using the power of the state to silence lawful protest will never be tolerated, whether it’s two people on a sidewalk or a thousand people in a park.—ACLU of Hawaii

by Larry Geller

On August 21, 2011, Jamie and Tess Meier protested in Haleiwa Beach Park opposing gender discrimination in honor of Women’s Equality Day. Protests are held nationwide on this day each year. In Haleiwa their protest was without incident, but then they moved to Waikiki.

There they were confronted with Honolulu Police Department officers who halted their protest and threatened them with arrest. Both were cited and must appear in court on Monday, September 19, 2011 to face charges that they violated Revised Ordinances of Honolulu (“ROH”) § 10-1.3(a)(5): failing to obtain a parks department permit for “meetings or gatherings or other similar activity held by organizations, associations or groups.”

The Meiers informed HPD of their right to protest, but HPD terminated the protest anyway.

The ACLU and the Davis Levin Livingston law firm will be representing them and contend that protest by two people on a sidewalk or in a public park is perfectly legal and that the ordinance under which they are charged can’t remove their right to exercise free speech in a public place. Also, two people protesting should not require any permit under the ordinance.

The attorneys have asked Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro to dismiss immediately the charges, but so far that has not happened.

Could this be a “rehearsal” for APEC 2011 in November? In other cities, for example New York City during the RNC, police wantonly arrested thousands of protestors—and lots of people just passing through the area going to or from work—without justification. In many cases they lied in filling out arrest papers. Later, charges were dismissed. But the police were successful in suppressing protest.

Although the officers involved in terminating the Meier’s protest were informed of the law, they stopped the protest anyway. Nothing will happen to them, they will bear no consequences. This is how police behave at major public events. The expenses of settlements, if any, are borne by the taxpayers later on and considered by the local government to be one of the “expenses” associated with the event.

Perhaps this practice shot at quelling protest will give them confidence to do the same during APEC, when neither the city nor the state will particularly welcome protests that typically accompany these high-profile events.

Arraignment is scheduled to take place at about 8:30 a.m. Monday, September 19, at Oahu First Circuit District Court, Kauikeaouli Hale, 1111 Alakea St. in Honolulu. A press conference will follow the arraignment.

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So HPD plans to make a mockery of the law for the world to see during APEC? New leadership is needed!

My article was speculative with regard to any plans HPD may have. Obviously, none of us ordinary citizens is privy to their planning process.

When all is said and done, the Meiers will collect a big fat undisclosed settlement from City Hall. Thank you, Honolulu taxpayers, for your generosity. Thank you, City Hall, for your astonishing stupidity. Why can't you people get it through your heads that Hawaii is part of the United States now? Americans have rights.

Hasen't anyone informed Jamie and Tess Meier that according to the Supreme Court's decision of Citizen United, free speech is equivalent to money. It would have been much easier and safer to spend tens of thousands of dollars on TV commercials promoting their position. I suggest anyone wanting to protest the APEC conference to start passing the hat immediately.

One only needs to look back at HPD's conduct prior to the 2001 Asian Development Bank meeting in Honolulu to get a reasonable idea of what to expect at APEC this fall. Then HPD chief Boisse Correa used the WTO riots in Seattle as an excuse to arm the police to the teeth here and no so subtly threaten protest organizers with ominous phone calls in the days leading up to the meeting. They even spied on non-violence/legal rights training we conducted. Of course, none of that was remotely necessary because the folks they had identified as responsible for the WTO troubles were not the type who have/spend the money necessary to travel to and stay in Honolulu. At the main protest event, there were less than 500 marchers and at least as many police/surveillance personnel. And this was 4 months before 9/11!!!

We now know that 9/11 serves as an excuse for the militarization of the police and the Star-Advertiser is utterly complicit, as evidenced by an August 2010 front page story entitled "Security paramount for conference/Federal agencies will join city and state authorities in preparing for protesters," which was accompanied by an inflammatory photo of a SWAT/crowd control officer. Of course, since then, we've learned that most of the security budget is for off-the-street type security for foreign officials but the effect was to continue demonization of legitimate and non-violent First Amendment protected speech.

Which brings to mind the Meier's predicament, because that will surely become an issue during APEC, as well. Not only are "permits" used to obstruct protected political expression but the physical layout of the "sidewalks" in Waikiki does the same. For reasons that I was not able to get the City to explain while assisting in representation of several people accused of trespass in unrelated cases in Waikiki, renovations/landscaping of the areas adjacent to Kalakaua Avenue have in a number of places moved the sidewalk away from the curb and onto private property. Specifically, the area that is publicly-owned has been covered with grass/landscaping/planters in a beautification "effort" and the sidewalk has been moved away from the street so that pedestrians are neatly delivered to business storefront displays. Great for the businesses, not so much for freedom of expression because the private property owners make trespass complaints and the police are only too happy to intimidate speakers into silence (i.e., to turn around and go back to truly public space). And, if the speaker steps into the street to avoid going on to private property? BINGO! Citation/arrest, made to order!

It's a great life, isn't it? And this isn't Disappeared News. It was never news at all!

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