ACLU of Hawaii Files Federal Lawsuit on Behalf of Peaceful Protesters

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
August 8, 2006 12:00 am

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Advocates for Homeless Unjustly Arrested, ACLU Charges

HONOLULU — The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii filed a

federal lawsuit today on behalf of advocates for the homeless who were arrested

while peacefully protesting at Honolulu City Hall.

“These arrests

should never have happened,” said Lois K. Perrin, Legal Director of the ACLU of

Hawaii. “Just because county officials may not agree with a message does not

give them the right to interrupt a protest and arrest fellow Hawaiians for

exercising their constitutional right to engage in political expression and


The ACLU lawsuit charges that officials for the city and

county of Honolulu (CCH) violated the constitutional rights of Utu Langi and

Julia Matsui Estrella by illegally arresting them in order to suppress their

peaceful political protest in support of the homeless.

The city’s

recent decision to close Ala Moana Beach Park at night has resulted in the

eviction of more than 200 homeless individuals staying at the park. Their plight

inspired Langi and Matsui Estrella to march to City Hall to protest the park

closure and the city’s failure to provide adequate alternatives for the

homeless. At least 60 others marched alongside them including advocates, church

leaders and homeless persons. The lawsuit charges that in response to the

protest, the city deployed more than a dozen officers from the Honolulu Police

Department, including officers in full riot gear from the Specialized Weapons

and Tactics Division (SWAT) unit, to intimidate and harass the protesters,

interfering with the delivery of their political message. Police officers

arrested Langi and Matsui Estrella when they asserted their rights and refused

to move their protest off City Hall grounds.

“The only violations

at City Hall that night were by the CCH when it trampled on the constitutional

rights of these protesters,” Perrin said. “One can only conclude that these

actions were taken because the CCH did not want the embarrassment of having the

homeless on its front steps.”

Throughout July the ACLU of Hawaii

repeatedly urged the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney to drop the criminal

charges against Langi and Matsui Estrella. The prosecutor refused to act and the

ACLU filed a separate motion with the Hawaii State District Court asking that

the charges be dismissed. That motion will be heard on August 22,


The lawsuit names as defendants the CCH, George Keoki

Miyamoto, Director of the Facilities Maintenance Department, Dana Lynne

Takahara-Dias, Deputy Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, and a

number of individual Honolulu Police Department officers.


papers in the case are online at: www­

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