Permit process could draw free speech challenge
The City Council has approved a bill to cap the number of Waikiki parades and events.
THE City Council, acknowledging that not everyone loves a parade, has sent to Mayor Hannemann a bill to limit the number of processions and other events
that require street closings in Waikiki.
Though the bill contains exemptions for "expressive activity" to address First Amendment concerns, it leaves judgment of free speech issues to the city's lawyers, which could draw lawsuits if an exemption is denied.
The bill responds to complaints from residents who say too many parades, street festivals and fun runs interfere with their lives and from hotels, transportation companies and hotels whose businesses are disrupted when roads are blocked off.
Waikiki streets were closed 58 times last year for such events and by the end of this year, the total is anticipated to reach 60.
The measure caps activities to no more than 39 a year. "Legacy" events, such as the Kamehameha Day parade, the Aloha Week hoolaulea and the Honolulu Marathon, which have been held in Waikiki annually for at least 15 years, will get 14 of the permits. Fifteen others will be granted by lottery while the mayor may grant waivers for as many as 10 others that did not receive initial approval.
Permits must be sought within certain time frames, which could hamper opportunity for marches or protests. The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii believes the permitting could raise constitutional challenges, though it has no plans to file suit.
"Almost every parade is a First Amendment parade," said ACLU Hawaii director Lois Perrin and denial of a permit by a city official's determination of free speech could be grounds for a suit.
Other problems could arise if a permit is turned down, then given a waiver through the mayor's discretion, while another isn't.
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