Cops, Protests And The ACLU

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 12, 2011
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In a strange twist of reality, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that it wanted better training for Honolulu police on how to handle protesters before next month’s AsiaPacific Economic

for protesters. We’ve already spent a lot of money sprucing up our roads, median strips and homeless depots, but spending a lot more money to teach our law enforcement personnel how to handle protesters is going a little bit too far.

During recent protests around town it seems obvious that groups know how to protest and others don’t.

The “information picket line” in Waikiki protesting inadequate wages, outsourcing and an unsympathetic management team seemed to be well-educated, and though the protest was in busy Waikiki, the police had no trouble keeping order.


On the other hand, a Waikiki protest over gender discrimination was poorly organized with a few students getting arrested.

What did they do wrong? First and foremost, they didn’t seem to know what they were there for. If they did, they would have been at a different location. They obviously staged their pseudo protest in Waikiki hoping to drum up a lot of attention and people. In wellorganized projects, the protesters bring their own people. A few people running around Waikiki topless is not that outrageous.

If a protest is well-organized, it demonstrates a visible profile for spectators to observe. It’s a form of education, like the women’s right to vote protests, gay rights and union workers.

Protest are not always negative. They can help build networks, are not always an example of extreme activity, and are not necessarily against the law.

Laws governing protesting are quite clear. Since HPD has a head start on how to handle protesters, it might be a good idea for the ACLU to give some seminars to groups planning to protest and disrupt the next month’s APEC conference.


We’ve seen how new technology has made protesting an art form with the rallying of large groups using the “flash mob” technique on Facebook and Twitter.

It will be interesting, because the ACLU knows right now how many groups are going to be protesting at the conference and won’t say.

But it would be foolhardy for them to believe HPD isn’t prepared to respond to any contingency that attempts to harass, intimidate or disrupt the conference.

One quick free tip for the would-be protestors: If the police on duty and not all of them will have on uniforms tells you to stop and desist, please do.

You will save us all a lot of tax dollars.

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