Rob Perez

Raising Cane

By Rob Perez

Sunday, April 22, 2001

Vague protest rules
imposed by city
violate free speech

OKAY, PROTESTERS. Listen up. If you want to take to the streets during the Asian Development Bank meeting, here are some conditions for your proposed protest march May 9:

No leaning, climbing, sitting or standing on any barrier, street light, signal light, fire hydrant or sign pole -- even during the one-hour period the procession stops outside the Hawaii Convention Center, site of the ADB sessions.

What if an elderly protester wants to lean on a sign pole to rest? The rules make no exceptions.

You also must conduct the event in "an orderly and professional manner." There are no guidelines on what that means.

Once the last marchers leave the assembly area at Ala Moana Beach Park, no one else can join the procession. If you're running late and want to join elsewhere on the pre-set route, tough luck.

And while you're at the park, "obscene or objectionable language, rowdyism or unbecoming conduct will not be tolerated." Again, no guidelines on what is objectionable, rowdy or unbecoming.

One last thing: The city or state is allowed to unilaterally amend the marching permit at any time, entirely at its discretion. And the police can stop the march if it is being done in an "unsafe or unauthorized manner." The police decide what is unsafe or unauthorized.

Such conditions are among those the sponsoring organization, ADBwatch, must agree to in order to get a permit for the march, according to the city.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Brent White, who represents ADBwatch, said the conditions are so vague, arbitrary and unreasonable they clearly violate protesters' rights to free speech. "It's so completely preposterous and unconstitutional that I can't fathom why they're doing it. What it shows is the city has no respect for the First Amendment."

White said he plans to file a lawsuit tomorrow to force the city to issue the marching permit without the "unreasonable conditions."

He also wants the court to order the city to provide reasonable access near the convention center so protesters can get their message to the ADB delegates, who will be meeting May 9-11. Citing security concerns, the city is planning to close the sidewalks adjacent to the convention center and a large promenade area behind the center, according to White.

The city also is requiring ADBwatch to purchase liability insurance for the march.

But ADBwatch has been refused coverage by three insurers, with each company saying it doesn't provide insurance for "anti-globalization protests," White said. By imposing the insurance requirement, the city effectively is preventing the march based on protest content -- another constitutional violation, White said.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said the insurance requirement for ADBwatch is no different than what the city requires of other organizations planning parades on city streets.

As for the other conditions, Costa hadn't seen them as of late Friday and had no immediate comment.

White's suspicion is that the rules were written in such a way that the city would be able to cancel the march -- or make drastic changes -- right before the protest starts, leaving ADBwatch with no recourse for challenging the action, no matter how inappropriate.

Given the way the city has handled other protest issues for the ADB meeting, White's suspicions are not unfounded.

Star-Bulletin columnist Rob Perez writes on issues
and events affecting Hawaii. Fax 529-4750, or write to
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu 96813. He can also be reached
by e-mail at:

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