ACLU of Hawaii Files Federal Lawsuit on Behalf of Peaceful Protesters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.
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.
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.aclu.org/rightsofthepoor/housing/26440lgl20060808.html
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