Council renews fight against Waikiki street performers
The ACLU opposes a new bill, saying it is still unconstitutional
The City Council is once again targeting Waikiki street performers, revisiting a constitutional fight that the city lost several years ago.
Bill 71, which the Council will discuss tomorrow, would ban mimes, jugglers, musicians and other street performances along a five-block stretch of Kalakaua Avenue three hours each night.
The bill comes nearly four years after a state judge struck down a 2000 city ordinance that also restricted street performances, saying the ordinance was unconstitutional, violating the constitutional rights to free speech and due process.
The law had limited street performers to six designated locations in Waikiki. The judge said that the ordinance was overly broad and its restrictions sweeping.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought suit to challenge the 2000 ordinance, is opposed to the new bill.
"It still fails constitutionally," ACLU of Hawaii Legal Director Lois Perrin said yesterday.
Waikiki Councilman Charles Djou, who introduced Bill 71, said he believes the bill will pass constitutional muster because the restrictions are narrower than the 2000 ordinance. He said he's discussed the bill with the Prosecutor's Office, the Corporation Counsel's Office and a constitutional expert.
"It's dramatically different," Djou said.
The bill prohibits performance from 7 to 10 p.m. daily along Kalakaua Avenue between Lewers and Uluniu streets.
The bill also sets out the conditions under which street performers can entertain along the sidewalk. For example, the performer cannot block pedestrian movement on any public sidewalk or crosswalk.
The period of the restriction is when pedestrian traffic is at its peak in Waikiki, and the area off limits to performing is the area with the highest pedestrian activity, according to the bill.
Djou said that on the busiest nights in Waikiki, some performances can block sidewalks, making it dangerous for people who walk onto the street to get around the crowds.
"It's a bit of a safety hazard," Djou said. "I think it's simply frustrating when you simply can't use that sidewalk."
Perrin said while the new bill is narrower it is still unconstitutional because it is aimed at a certain group: "It's directed at an unpopular group."
Perrin said the bill is among several pending measures, including one limiting the number of parades in Waikiki, aimed at curbing First Amendment rights.
"The bill does not make sense, and it's also part of a larger scheme to limit First Amendment activities," Perrin said. "We're in opposition to this attack on First Amendment freedoms."
Djou responded, "I have no interest in shutting down anyone's free speech rights."