Thursday, October 30, 2003
MARY VORSINO / MVORSINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Terry Kekealani was among three people arrested last night at Helemano Plantation, where a public meeting on the Army’s proposed Stryker Brigade was held. For the second straight night, protesters were not allowed to carry signs into the meetings.
3 protesters are arrested at Army hearing
Demonstrators voice their opposition to a new combat brigade
By Mary Vorsino
For the second consecutive night, dozens of sign-carrying protesters were barred from a public hearing on the Army’s planned formation of a Stryker combat brigade.
Three were arrested, including native Hawaiian community leader and kupuna Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell.
The meeting at the Helemano Plantation in Wahiawa was the second in a series of six hearings on the Army project. At a public hearing for the brigade Tuesday in Salt Lake, four protesters were arrested and charged with criminal trespass.
Army officials said they barred signs to make a less intimidating environment for all attendees. The protesters countered that banning the signs, which are part of their testimony, restricts their First Amendment rights.
“We’re not breaking the law,” said Pete Doktor, one of those arrested last night. “We’re holding up a higher law.”
Terry Kekealani was also arrested.
About 50 protesters, many of whom carried homemade signs, walked to the plantation’s entrance gate last night and met with five private security guards. For almost 30 minutes the protesters chanted, shouted and sang, trying to persuade the guards to step aside.
One man told the guards: “You violate the United States by not permitting us to protest. The United States is violating the United States.” The crowd chanted “Let them through” and “This is not democracy, this is not freedom.” When some protesters began to push, the guards called police.
Army spokesman Troy Griffin said the sign rule is being enforced because the private halls that the Army rented for the public hearings have insisted on peaceful gatherings.
The protesters’ “agenda is to break up the meeting, and we’re here to gather testimony,” he said, adding that the Army “didn’t know the ground rules” of the private halls when they were booked. All six of the Army’s Stryker meetings are on private property.
Paulette Lee, Helemano’s operation manager, said the plantation did not want protesters with signs because of safety concerns.
“You have signs that are on sticks,” she said. “People don’t realize that that can be a weapon.”
None of the protesters’ signs were on sticks.
The Army hopes to acquire 23,000 acres on the Big Island and add 1,400 to the 27,000 acres Schofield Barracks occupies in Wahiawa to build new facilities to accommodate the 310 new eight-wheeled, 19-ton Stryker combat vehicles.
Earlier this month, Army officials released a draft environmental impact statement on the Stryker project. The statement identified at least 500 cultural sites on Big Island and Oahu land intended for use by a Stryker combat brigade. Two of the sites are listed in the Army’s draft environmental impact statement as significant.
The Stryker hearings continue tomorrow at the Makaha Resort and will move to the Turtle Bay Resort on Tuesday. The Big Island meetings will be held Wednesday at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and next Thursday at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel.