Police Arrest Occupy Honolulu Protesters

Sanjeev Ranabhat, Special to Civil Beat

UPDATED 11/06/11 3:03 p.m.

Eight Occupy Honolulu protesters, three women and five men, were arrested at 11:30 p.m. Saturday at Thomas Square Park.

More than 20 police officers gathered before arresting the protesters. Officers said that the arrest was for sitting on the grass after the park was closed. "Park is closed, if they refuse to leave then they get arrested," said one of the police officers.

More than 60 Occupy Honolulu protesters had gathered in front of Thomas Square Park after 10 p.m. for an encampment, the first the group has tried in Honolulu. Thomas Square Park closes at 10 p.m. The protesters who were arrested were sitting on the grass. Police said they were in the park. Other protesters who remained on the sidewalk were not arrested.

Other protesters shouted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" at the officers while the arrests were being made near the corner of Beretania Street and Ward Avenue.

"I'm exercising my freedom of speech," said a young woman who was handcuffed and being escorted by two officers to a police car.

Other protesters said that the action by the Hawaii Police Department was "unnecessary." Some protesters burst into tears while police were arresting their fellow protesters.

"You are the 99 percent," protesters shouted at the officers.

About 20 protesters remained at the scene all night. They camped on the sidewalk. They were still there Sunday morning and said they would continue to camp today.

Police initially said the sidewalk was part of the park and protesters could not remain on the sidewalk. However protesters shouted the sidewalk is public property and the police eventually left.

Police said they wouldn't have arrested the protesters if they had shown their ID, in which case they would have received a ticket. But the eight refused to show their ID and were taken to police headquarters.

UPDATE The protesters were charged with violating park rules.

“We were searched three times,” said Megan Brooker, 28, who moved to Honolulu from Maine about two years ago. “Once at the park and two invasive searches later.”

The five men were kept in one big cell while the three women protestors were held separately. It took about three hours before they were bailed out.

“I don’t understand why they separated us [three women]...I was held in a small cell, like six-foot across. There were two other females, one was charged with felony kidnapping,” Brooker said.

Protesters were disappointed with the police approach. Some connected the arrests with the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.

“I thought they [police] would negotiate with us,” Brooker said. “Because of APEC, they are trying to disperse us and this [arrest] was the example that they are trying to show.”

The following is the text of the statement Occupy Honolulu put out before Saturday night's protest.

"We are establishing a camp to address the urgent issues affecting our country. Our political and economic systems do not serve the needs of the people. We stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement around the world.

"From the occupied ‘āina of Hawai'I, we stand in solidarity with the peoples of occupied lands worldwide. We stand in solidarity with the houseless people who are being forced from the streets and parks they call home as a result of the upcoming APEC meetings.

"We believe that our first amendment rights do not end at 10pm. We will stand our ground to assemble peacefully to petition the government for a redress of our grievances. We will lay by the road in accordance with Kānāwai Māmalahoe, or Law of the Splintered Paddle, which states that we may be free to go forth and lay by the roadside without fear of harm. This is sacred Hawaiian law and a part of the Hawai’i State Constitution, Article 9, Section 10.

"We invoke our rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the freedom to lay by the roadside without harm. Should the Honolulu Police Department choose to prevent this action, we believe they are breaking the laws set forth by the Constitution of the United States, the Hawai’i State Constitution, and sacred Hawaiian law."

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