Occupy Honolulu Asked Mayor for Immunity From Sidewalk Belongings Ban
In private meeting with mayor last month, protesters also asked for the city to find them an alternate space.
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Four days after Mayor Peter Carlisle signed the sidewalk belongings ban into law, Occupy Honolulu went down to Honolulu Hale to ask for immunity from the new law — or at least another space for the movement to set up camp.
That the mayor even granted them a meeting is remarkable.
The mayor’s office refused to give details about what happened during that Dec. 13 conversation, calling it a “private meeting.”
However, the five Occupy Honolulu protesters who met with the mayor told Civil Beat about what happened.
In the hour-long meeting, the protesters told the mayor that the new ordinance makes their encampment at Thomas Square Park illegal. It would allow the city to confiscate their belongings. They asked to be granted a permit to stay at the park to continue exercising their First Amendment right to address grievances against the government.
Also present at the meeting were the mayor’s executive assistant Jim Fulton, Deputy Managing Director Chrystn Eads and Corporation Counsel Robert Godbey, the protesters said.
Michael Vandemark, a 49-year-old veteran and an Occupy Honolulu protester said the group tried everything to convince the mayor to let them stay at the camp. “We even invited him to visit our camp for him to see how organized we are,” Vandemark said.
Vandemark wrote a letter that the protesters read to the mayor. The letter listed five requests, including “the Occupy Honolulu can be immune to city ordinance 54 (Bill 54).”
The protesters even asked the city to “find an alternate location at no cost or little cost such as state or city building so as we may be able to to visibly be seen and reach out to the general public for our cause,” according to the letter.
Occupiers also told the mayor that the new law would “damage your chance of reelection.” They said the Hawaii Constitution and the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from illegal search and seizure.
The letter also contends that the ordinance “will cost taxpayers an excessive amount of tax dollars which will run in the hundreds if not millions of tax dollars.”
Nina Blanco, who was also in the meeting, said the mayor listened to each protester and asked each of them what they were doing at the camp and why.
“I mentioned that the local representation of this global movement is essential,” Blanco said in an email. “And that although there isn’t hundreds or thousands of us camped out, we have many local supporters who are grateful that we’re here.”
Michael Tada told the mayor that he joined the Occupy movement to help give the disability community a voice.
“I told him (mayor) that as a person with a disability,” said Tada, who has cerebral palsy. “I see great potential for the Occupy movement to collaborate with disability community to bring about real change.”
Blanco said the mayor listened to all the protesters’ concerns and acknowledged what the protesters were doing.
“He wasn’t against what Occupy was doing,” Vandemark said. “But he also told us that he has to uphold the law to everyone.”
Still, Occupy protesters felt their attempt to convince the mayor was futile.
Blanco said: “We mentioned that Bill 54 would make what we’re doing, illegal. When it rains, we need shelter! We are trying to hold an easy accessible, 24-hour open forum for the public. So what about when we need protection from the elements? Then Carlisle says, ‘then just stand there till the cows come home.'”
Fulton, the mayor’s executive assistant, confirmed that “the Mayor told them they were welcome to stand and protest on public sidewalks for as long as they wanted, but they could no longer store property there or camp. Someone from Occupy responded that it rains at Thomas Square and protesters would then be exposed to the elements.”
Police confiscated Occupiers’ property late on the night of Dec. 29, two weeks after the meeting with the mayor. However, police told the media, that they were executing park rules — not the new ordinance.
Occupy members say the mayor and the police have attacked their movement.
Now, forced to move to the edge of the sidewalk, Occupy protesters say they will not be surprised if the mayor comes after them again to eliminate what’s left.
Read the letter Occupy protesters read to the mayor: