Hawai'i ADB Meeting — Send in the Goons!

By Robert Rees
Honolulu Weekly, Feb. 7, 2001

The Honolulu City Council committees on Transportation and Planning and Public Safety met jointly on Jan. 31 to discuss a single agenda item, the plans to curtail free speech when the Asia Development Bank meets in Hawaii at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Attending the May 7-11 ADB meeting will be representatives of 60 owning countries, 1200 investment bankers and as many as 400 journalists. The Hawaii Tourism Authority considers hosting the event a coup, and the HTA's executive director, Bob Fishman, was on hand to tell the Council how important it is that Hawaii "makes a good impression" on these cash-laden and opinion-leading visitors.

Fishman warned that the opponents of globalization have learned to utilize international conferences as venues for expressing concerns. Hawaii, hungry for business, was chosen for the ADB conference because it promised an oasis of security. To hold up its end of the deal, Honolulu plans to spend an extra $7 million on crowd control. Rationalized Fishman, "We are training and developing a police force for a higher level of proficiency that makes Hawaii a more attractive place."

Assistant Chief of Police Boisse Correa assured the Council that "We're on top of this," but added, "We need more riot equipment." Correa noted also that "the National Guard is working with us," and "all leaves will be canceled."

Correa didn't disclose that the HPD has asked the state judiciary to cancel all scheduled court appearances by HPD officers during the conference, and has arranged for alternative sites for arraignment and detention of protesters. Further, as first reported by the Hawaii Chapter of Refuse & Resist, the City Council is rushing to pass new ordinances to make the job of the HPD easier. Says Council Chair Jon Yoshimura, "We are giving the HPD additional tools to deal with protesters. These tools are patterned after what Los Angeles has done."(Among other things, it will be illegal to wear a mask "with the intent to commit a crime," police dogs will be allowed in our parks and campers will be arrested.)

Correa did reveal that certain city parks will be shut down. Ostensibly this is to provide staging areas for the HPD in its new role, as an occupying army, but it will have the effect of choking off any opportunity for protesters to legally congregate in our public forums. This, in turn, will force the protesters to the streets.

Getting into this spirit of Dr. Strangelove, Transportation director Cheryl Soon noted solemnly that bus routes might have to be altered. Further, intoned Soon, "We will give out [revised bus schedules and routes] only on a need to know basis."

Of special concern was Fishman's promise, "We will not tolerate excessive inconvenience?" As a policy, this is an excuse for stifling free speech based on content. In fact, if we applied Fishman's convenience rule to the Martin Luther King Jr. parade financed by the city, or to the Convention Center itself, neither would exist.

It's enough to make you want to protest. In fact, with President Bush possibly on hand, the international forum provides a grand opportunity for a highly visible demonstration on behalf of freedom for diversity and dissent.

ADB Hawaii | Actions 2001 | www.agp.org