Wednesday, October 10, 2001

City loosens policies
on public gatherings

It agrees to cut time to process
applications in an ACLU settlement

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The city has agreed to ease restrictions on public demonstrations and parades as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii.

The organization had filed a lawsuit objecting to city policies in response to last May's Asian Development Bank meeting. It was filed on behalf of ADBWatch, an umbrella organization of groups protesting the globalization practices of the ADB.

Among the key changes is relaxation of the time it takes to obtain permits for parades in public thoroughfares and gatherings in public parks.

Applications for parade permits now can be granted as near as five days in advance instead of 40 days. Gatherings in public parks now will be allowed on three working days notice rather than three weeks and as little as 24 hours for events prompted by current affairs.

The city also is agreeing to waive the $500,000 general liability insurance for parades on those unable to obtain it or pay for it, or require money deposits for public assemblies in public parks.

Much of the issues raised already had been addressed by a federal court consent decree granted before the May 7-11 ADB conference, said ACLU legal director Brent White.

"I think the ordinances just hadn't been updated to keep up with current constitutional law," White said. "It was a matter of the city realizing that that these were indefensible provisions, and so they had to take them out."

The antiquated measures stayed on the books, White said, "I think because no one complained for so long and until someone complains, these things continue."

Greg Swartz, deputy corporation counsel, concurred that most issues dealing with the ADB meetings were settled before the May conference and a staged march and demonstration by 500 protesters. The parade permit allowed for up to 7,000.

"The stipulations we put together merely put it in writing for further events," Swartz said.

"Our primary emphasis was not trying to impose conditions on ADB marchers, but to ensure the safety," of both meeting attendees and protesters, Swartz said

Some of the changes agreed to by the city require amendments to existing ordinances. "We will follow up as necessary," Swartz said.

White said he and city attorneys did not have a difficult time agreeing to the changes.

"They had to be dragged to the table partly by the courts and partly by us but once we were there it was much easier," he said.

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