The presence of the LRAD in a peaceful demonstration, not a riot, is extremely troublesome and bothersome.

Our peaceful civic participation must be not exposed to these military tactics.

At least one LRAD — Long Range Acoustic Device — was brought to the site during the Sept. 26 arrests of Sherwood Forest masterplan protesters at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park.

It’s been reported that LRADs can emit a blast of amplified sound capable of inducing headaches, panic, and potential hearing loss. Other symptoms have included brain swelling, dizziness, nausea, severe headaches, balance problems and tinnitus, or prolonged ringing in the ears.

It’s generally agreed an air embolism in the lungs could be caused by a loud enough sound. The embolism could then travel to the heart and kill a person. High-intensity ultrasonic sound (generally anything above 20KHz) can cause physical damage.

This LRAD military sonic weapon was developed in response to the USS Cole attack by radicals at the Yemen’s Aden Harbor on October 2000.

Waimanalo residents have been protesting against Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s moving ahead with the Sherwood Forest plan controversy.

They have voiced concerns against the city’s various violations of environmental review processes as well as fiscal improprieties.

The residents wish for Caldwell to fix the other two neglected and dilapidated parks first in the vicinity instead of pushing towards the new $30 million project that they fear would pave the way for more traffic and gentrification. They have also raised concerns about iwi kupuna in the area, the area being in the Registry of Historical Places, the decimation of acreages of trees, and so on.

They have also collected an online petition of about 33,000 signatures against this project.

The concerned Waimanalo residents have vigorously participated in petitioning, attending meetings, going to city hearings and other community hearings, writing letters, demonstrating but still face stonewalling from the mayor. They had no choice but to continue to dissent.

Like any other dissenters on any other issues, Waimanalo residents must be assured of their right to free speech, free press, and the right to assemble without excessive use of force and intimidation.

We need to note that the LRAD was purportedly used only as a loud speaker during the Sept. 26 protests and arrests.

However, two women who were in the protest line and arrested, talked about suffering symptoms of ringing in the ears the day after. Some may be more susceptible to sounds than others.

There are various social media photos and videos showing evidence of the LRAD’s presence in Waimanalo on that day. Locals have also confirmed that they have also seen the presence of LRADs at Mauna Kea on the Big Island.

If the police had decided to use the LRAD at Waimanalo, or if someone “pushed the wrong button,” many bystanders including infants, children, youth and the elderly would have been affected as well. So would the press and other observers.

Our peaceful civic participation must be not exposed to these military tactics. Do we all have to endure such cruel and unusual punishment in exercising the First Amendment?

The presence of the LRAD in a peaceful demonstration, not a riot, is extremely troublesome and bothersome.

Does Mayor Caldwell think that he can use his executive powers to quell dissent not only through police powers but also through the presence of LRADs? Just the mere appearance of these LRADs is a show of force and intimidation.

Mayor Caldwell described the Sept. 26 arrests during his closed press conference later that day as showing “respect” and “being peaceful.”

Is the excessive display of a warfare device during a peaceful dissent showing “respect” and “being peaceful” to the protesters and the public?

I think not!

The day of the Sept. 26 arrests at Sherwood Forest.

Kevin O’Mahony

We understand the need for national security purposes but there has to be a line drawn on LRAD’s usage and appearance in peaceful protests and peaceful participation in civic discourse.

We also understand that our men and women in blue are caught in the middle, having to obey orders from their superiors.

It’s important to note that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals Panel  ruled on June 18, 2018, that use of noise cannons (aka LRADs) against peaceful protestors could be considered “excessive force.”

This LRAD issue needs to be addressed promptly; the parameters of its use must be clarified immediately in our state of Hawaii.

We must all protect basic civil rights in our democracy.

Editor’s note: An HPD spokeswoman said the LRAD at Waimanalo was used as a portable microphone.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author

  • Choon James
    Choon James served on the Koolauloa Sustainable Communities Planning Advisory Committee. She was a past President of the BYU-Hawaii Alumni Association, a past board member of the Laie Community Association and a past President of the Laie Point Association. She has been a real estate broker for over 25 years.