Friday, November 25, 2011


Stop Gabbard’s Bill 54 attack on homeless and protesters

by Larry Geller

City Councilman Tulsi Gabbard introduced a bill that is likely to cost us taxpayers massive legal fees. Now, I know attorneys are suffering with the rest of us in the bad economy, but we don’t need to give them a Christmas present like Gabbard’s bill. Before it’s all over, it will also give Honolulu some very bad publicity. We don’t need that.

The bill, Bill 54, as described in news reports, is designed to give police authority to seize personal property that is unattended or attended. In other jurisdictions, similar ordinances have been struck down.

Read this comment kindly posted to my article Occupying our minds--with hope (11/24/2011) by H. Doug Matsuoka. Here’s a snip from the comment:

There is an ordinance pending before the Honolulu City Council, Bill 54, which allows the seizure of personal property that is unattended or attended. The police have been heard mentioning that this bill will allow them to close down Occupy Honolulu. Although Jon Van Dyke of the UH Law School has signed off on the constitutionality of the bill, the ACLU has submitted testimony to the contrary and has warned the Council of incurring substantial costs defending challenges to the bill.

There is also the additional issue of the bill's violation of the Kanawai Mamalahoe, the Law of the Splintered Paddle, which incorporated into the State Constitution guarantees the safety of those who lie by the roadside. I've always taken this to be kind of the equivalent of the first principle in the Hippocratic oath, "In the first place, do no harm." To me, the Kanawai Mamalahoe says, "in the first place, make no law harming those who have committed no offense." The criminalization of homelessness by the City of Honolulu is a shame. Although it may be difficult to craft laws that comply with the national and state constitutions, that is the job lawmakers are sworn to. If they cannot do so, they should resign. And at any rate, they should not continue to attempt circumvention of free speech, peaceable assembly, and the safety of our most vulnerable citizens.

I posted some quick links to Bill 54 and testimony etc. at my blog:

Check out that link.

The stage is set for litigation in New York where police destroyed thousands of books and destroyed or damaged personal possessions in a raid on the Zucotti Park encampment of Occupy Wall Street.

In New York, police are required by police statute 218-01 to record and process seized property, which they did not do when they raided and trashed the belongings of Occupiers at Zucotti Park on November 15. According to civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, the property must be properly bagged and sealed and clearly identified by invoice number.

There is also a first amendment issue because the police confiscated and destroyed books. According to Gideon Oliver, president of the NYC chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, speaking at a press conference, there is special constitutional protection for books. For example, he said, the City may pass an ordinance prohibiting unlicensed general vending, but it cannot ban someone from setting up a table and offering books, pamphlets, zines or other printed material. The People's Library reported that it has only been able to retrieve 1,099 books out of the total collection of about 4,000, and only 800 are still usable.

In Boston, National Lawyers Guild attorneys won a temporary restraining order protecting Occupiers against raids. In Florida, a court granted an injunction against illegal ordinances similar in some ways to Honolulu’s proposed Bill 54. There have been several successful injunctions received in other cities.

In Honolulu, the City Council is undoubtedly salivating over another opportunity to attack those who find themselves homeless. Both protesters and homeless may be targeted by police under Bill 54.

It would save taxpayers the cost of paying for an unwanted legal battle if there were a massive turnout opposing Bill 54. Click the link above to get informed and connected.

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Here is a petition regarding Bill 54:

There's also a pretty awesome video of Occupy Honolulu "Mic Checking" the city council committee somewhere on the interwebs.

well. the job of legislators are to experiment. it is the job of courts to determine the final constitutional significance of the legislature. one of the problems of our local government's legislative branches is that they don't do enough experimenting and too much time worrying about litigation. there are more than enough apply moral and ethical reasons to oppose this measure than having to impose judicial duties on the legislative branch.

Tulsi can say good-bye to the House race in my district!

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