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ACLU challenges protest citations

By Gregg K. Kakesako

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 07:13 p.m. HST, Oct 20, 2011

<br />Jamie Meier, right, with his wife, Tess, at his side, spoke to the news media Monday after pleading not guilty to charges of failing to have a permit for their protest in Waikiki as part of National Go Topless Day.<br />

The American Civil Liberties Union will seek the repeal of a city ordinance under which two University of Hawaii students, including a topless woman, were cited in Waikiki last month for illegal assembly.

The ACLU says it believes the law is unconstitutional.

On Monday, District Judge Faye Koyanagi granted a request by Deputy Prosecutor Jeffrey Albert for a month continuance to study what he called "the important constitutional and factual issues" raised by the citation.

The citation carries a maximum fine of $500.

Jamie and Tess Meier, a couple from Maui, held two protests, one outside Haleiwa Beach Park and one on a Kalakaua Avenue sidewalk, on Aug. 21. They held signs and circulated a petition advocating for gender equality as part of a nationwide protest, National Go Topless Day, an event to support women's constitutional right to go bare-chested in public.

The pair, who are represented by ACLU and private attorneys, were cited for failing to obtain a city parks department permit for a meeting or gathering of two or more persons.

After an appearance in District Court, the couple's attorney, Matthew Winter, said they had a right to protest on a public sidewalk, in a park or any other place without a permit. He described the police's actions as "a message-based arrest."

"They wanted to stop it because of their message."

"We think it is absolutely horrible to cite them for their protest in Waikiki," said Winter. "They had absolutely every right to protest … and they were doing so lawfully."

He added, "Two people were cited for a two-person protest. That is absurd."

Winter and ACLU attorney Laurie Temple asked city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro on Friday to dismiss the charges because they believe the ordinance is unconstitutional. A spokesman for Kaneshiro said the prosecutor would not comment on the matter.

At a news conference in front of District Court, Temple added, "As APEC (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting) approaches and Oahu ramps up readiness, law enforcement is put on notice that using the power of the state to silence lawful protest will never be tolerated, whether it's two people on a sidewalk or a thousand people in a park."

Jamie Meier said he and his wife conducted a similar demonstration at Haleiwa Beach Park last year and were not cited.

"It was pretty tame," Meier said of last year's Haleiwa's demonstration. "We did it for two hours. We held signs."

At this year's protest, said Tess Meier, who went topless to show her support for gender equality, "the police basically didn't like what we had to say, didn't like what we were doing."

Winter added, "Just because the message here was toplessness, this doesn't mean the police can shut down a protest based on the message. Regardless of the message, people have the right to protest."

The annual demonstration is in honor of Women's Equality Day, which commemorates the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote, organizers say.

VIDEO: Interview with topless protestors






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kiragirl wrote:
Whose side is the ACLU on anyway? I know their function is to uphold the constitutionality of our laws but seems like they are more trouble makers instead of problem solvers. For example: Why can't they work with the City to get all these so-called homeless people off our sidewalks and parks and implement laws that are constitutional? And these couple are only looking for limelight! Equal rights? Where were they when ONLY men were drafted?
on September 20,2011 | 07:32AM
luvshawaii wrote:
Go back home to the mainland and perform your exhibitionist behaviors in front of your home town family. Start there, where you come from. Enough is enough.
on September 20,2011 | 07:46AM
lee1957 wrote:
They "come" from Maui.
on September 20,2011 | 08:34AM
luvshawaii wrote:
I seriously doubt it.
on September 20,2011 | 03:47PM
omd111 wrote:
The ACLU is just the dumbest bunch of attorneys. Nothing wrong with helping the homeless and the poor as long as they don't infringe on the rights of other citizens. But they fight for the homeless to be allowed to stay in parks and on the streets and that makes it difficult for the ordinary citizen to use the park or walk on the street. Just plain stupid.
on September 20,2011 | 08:04AM
Kuokoa wrote:
Don't even get me started on the ACLU!
on September 20,2011 | 08:12AM
BarkingEagle wrote:
Good for the ACLU. The rich and powerful have 99% of the attorney's. The ACLU is there to keep the government, which normally does the bidding of the corporations and the wealthy, from having absolute power to revoke the constitutional rights of ordinary people at any time.
on September 20,2011 | 09:09AM
fdez wrote:
This is not about homelessness or toplessness...it is about our right to dissent, to protest the actions of our government. A right that is in trouble these days. Thank heaven for the ACLU!
on September 20,2011 | 09:14AM
Manoa_Fisherman wrote:
In the minds of the ACLU, it is ok to yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater if you are protesting and let innocent people die for their right to free speech.
on September 20,2011 | 09:28AM
misskalea wrote:
While I do think it is important to keep our government in check by upholding our constitutional rights, I think these protestors did it in a tacky and ineffective way. Their argument on camera was weak and the whole protest quite embarrassing...for them. If you are out to promote women's equality, why not address the issue of salary inequality in the workplace or if its an exposure thing, have a baby and protest breastfeeding in public. As a women, I dont feel like I need to show my girls in public for any reason other than feeding a baby. It seems like this chick just wanted to show off her girls. Go back to Paia where people listen to petty protests.
on September 20,2011 | 09:59AM
Papakolea wrote:
I think this is the only time in my life that I've ever agreed with the ACLU. The issue has nothing to do with toplessness or equal rights. The root issue is the right of two or more people to "meet or gather in public". Taken literally and to an extreme, this law could be ridiculously applied to basically mute any type of protest regardless of the content. It leaves government with too much subjective latitude to "slap the cuffs" on anything it doesn't agree with. As far as the issue of toplessness, I agree with most of the people posting here that this couple just wants something to protest about. Given America's obesity rates, if anything men should be required to cover up too.
on September 20,2011 | 10:21AM
lee1957 wrote:
I, for one, would like to see the evidence before making a decision.
on September 20,2011 | 11:56AM
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