Ala WaiPolice plans aimed at thwarting protests at an international meeting in May promise to disrupt hundreds of Honolulu park users and have some activists crying foul.
to close while
Officials plan to shut off the park
in May to thwart protesters
By Nelson Daranciang
City officials said yesterday they will close Ala Wai Community Park May 7-11 to use as a staging area for security operations during the Asian Development Bank meeting at the Hawaii Convention Center. May is the start of the summer paddling season, and the park is used by about 10 paddling clubs, as well as soccer and Little League baseball teams.
In addition to the Ala Wai park closure, the city also is not issuing any permits allowing large groups to gather at Ala Moana Beach Park, which police plan to use as a second staging area.
"This is a complete denial of citizens' First Amendment rights," said Brent White, American Civil Liberties Union attorney for ADBwatch, a local coalition of protest groups opposed to the ADB.
White said the city Parks Department has denied all permit applications by protest groups that want to use parks in the vicinity of the convention center to stage a march and rally against the ADB on May 9.
"The denial of these permits is an attempt to prevent ADBwatch and others from exercising their free-speech rights in Honolulu during the ADB meeting," he said.
In response to criticism that the council and police are going overboard in their preparations, City Councilman and Parks Committee Chairman Gary Okino said: "It's better to be safe than sorry. I'd feel really bad if we didn't pass these measures and someone got hurt. I think we've just got to trust police."
Meanwhile, canoe clubs that want to paddle that week will have to move their canoes and practice elsewhere, said Ala Wai park attendant Cass Kasparovich.
"We've called all park users who practice or play games during that week (and told them) that they won't be able to get access to the park because of the bank meeting," Kasparovich said.
Mike Tongg, president of the Hawaii Canoe Racing Clubs, said the clubs based at the Ala Wai have met with police and will relocate for the week. The canal itself will be off limits to paddlers from near University Avenue down past the convention center.
Callers hoping to get permits for Ala Moana Beach Park are being told city officials are "evaluating" permits for the five days of the ADB.
"They (police) don't want us to issue permits," said John Mau, manager of the park's McCoy Pavilion.
White said the city denied applications from ADBwatch to use the parks and Kalakaua Avenue for a rally because the groups would need special duty officers, but all of them will be assigned to provide security for the ADB.
"The part of it that's nonsensical, all officers will be assigned to provide security during the Asian Development Bank," he said. "But none are available to escort protesters."
Police refused to comment on their security measures for the meeting.
The ADB, a Manila-based multinational group that promotes free trade and Third World development projects, has come under fire from environmentalists, unions and other groups who say the ADB exploits workers and the environment. At a 1999 Seattle meeting of another multinational development group, the World Trade Organization, rioting protesters caused millions of dollars in property damage.
Star-Bulletin reporter Rod Antone
contributed to this report.