Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 14 in Honolulu

When students walked on McCarthy Hall at UH-Manoa on Tuesday morning there were big big banners hanging from the 3rd floor of the Art Department or displays of victims of police brutality on construction walls, in hallways and stairwells, bulletin boards, and pillars. 

No one could miss that there is an epidemic of police murder in the U.S. - and that Hawai`i is no exception. 

Leafleters held a banner with pictures of victims of police murder on the Campus Center Mall and passed out leaflets and stickers.  Within a few hours about 200 students were wearing big stickers reading: "Stop Police Murders!  #ShutDown A14"  A student who said he was from a barrio in LA said he had been stopped almost every day and expected that when he came to Hawai`i he would leave all that.  However, while he isn't stopped as often, he said police still harass him.  He stopped by several times yelling "Fuck the Police!" 

A young woman told about being sexually assaulted by several GI's in Waikiki and then being assaulted again by police who were called to the scene.  A young Hawaiian woman commented:  "You think it's bad here?  Try Waianae!"  Another woman enthusiastically took a sticker and leaflets saying "a lot of my friends have been harassed by the cops."   Many commented that they had seen the posters; a professor stopped and said she'd been stunned by the line of photos of victims of police murder lining the stairways in her department saying: "very, very effective."   While a real "walk-out" didn't happen, it wasn't "business as usual" on the campus either.

By 3:30 in the afternoon people were assembling at Thomas Square to hold signs along the busy King Street thoroughfare.  By then we had received beginning news from across the U.S. and had heard that demonstrations had shut down the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC, the Metro train in LA, Mission Street in SF, and that there were some significant high school walk-outs.  Even though our numbers were small, and there was an ocean between us, the excitement of being part of a much larger movement took hold and was reinforced by the enthuasiastic response from passersbys. 

By 4:30 our group of about 15 people marched to the Honolulu Police Department headquarters, where we had a short rally.  Danger tape was wrapped around the stair railings and the sidewalk along the street was chalked with slogans and outlines of victims.

We had learned only the day before that an out-of-town police accreditation team was holding a "listening session" at HPD on A14 and that the public was invited to share "compliments and complaints" so by 5pm we were headed in. 

When our group entered the room with our signs and banners we filled more than half of the seats, and by the time the accreditation team sat down only an additional handful of people had arrived (not a big surprise since this "listening session" had only been announced in a very small blurb in the Star Advertiser newspaper the day before!). 

One after the other people stood up to register their complaints.  A legislature decried the high incidence of sexual harassment by police.  A college instructor recited a litany of outrages:  a recent incident in a local bar where undercovers  punched and kicked customers, and which was caught on surveillance and televised broadly; a woman who had been sexually assaulted by a cop during a traffic stop; the beating of a young man who tried to video the police; and much more.  The spokesperson from SMIN-Hawai`i agitated against police murder and demanded justice for Sheldon Haleck (who was recently tasered to death by a cop).  A student we had met on campus spoke out against her assault and subsequent ridicule by police,, and was reinforced by another woman who said she was moved by her testimony, and was outraged that her testimony was not unusual but reflected experiences of many women at the hands of the police.  A witness to police murder recounted how police had discredited his testimony and had lied about the testimony of other witnesses.  KITV News covered the hearing.   While they covered a portion of SMIN-Hawai`i's remarks, it managed to avoid information about the National Protest.  However it was definitely not "business as usual" at HPD as person after person spoke out against police brutality, murder, and sexual assault.  As the hearing ended, activists stood and chanted "Every City, Every Town, Has Its Own Michael Brown."   Unfortunately, this wasn't included in TV coverage. 

Be sure to go to the national Stop Mass Incarceration website for the latest reports about what happened across the country. 

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