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City tells Occupy Honolulu protesters to pack up tents

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 12:02 p.m. HST, Feb 1, 2012

The city gave notice to Occupy Honolulu protesters today to remove their tents and belongings from the sidewalk fronting Thomas Square or have their items seized in 24 hours.

The city's action under a new ordinance is the latest cleanup in an effort that began last month in McCully near the Old Stadium Park and Iwilei.

Trish Morikawa, the city's housing coordinator, said the city has received more than 30 complaints about the Thomas Square campsite.

Ten to 30 Occupy Honolulu protesters have been camping on the sidewalk at Thomas Square since Nov. 5. The protesters are part of a broader movement demonstrating against disparities in the nation's economic system.

Officials from the city Facility Maintenance and Parks and Recreation departments, backed up by Honolulu police, began issuing the notices about 9 a.m. More than a dozen tents are set up on the sidewalk on Beretania Street and Ward Avenue.

Morikawa said the new sidewalk storage law is not a free speech issue. She said private property cannot be stored on government property.

Enforcement of the new law is complaint-driven, Morikawa said, adding that the Iwilei and Old Stadium Park areas have received the most complaints and that was the reason city officials moved in those areas first.

Items left on the sidewalk will be taken to the city's Halawa baseyard Thursday and stored for 30 days or until the owners claim them.

Removal notices were taped on all items left on the sidewalk, such as tents, signs, chairs and other personal property.

As in the Iwilei and McCully operations, city officials photographed every item on Beretania Street and Ward Avenue and taped "removal notices" on them.

If the items are still on the sidewalk tomorrow, they will be bagged, placed in green garbage bins and trucked to the city facility storage.

Jamie Baldwin, a social worker who was one of the eight protestors arrested in November for being in Thomas Square past 10 p.m., said "it is crucial to have a 24-hour presence somewhere."

Although Baldwin said she is "not personally tied to this location," to others in the encampment "this space is crucial."

Last month, the city served notice and removed belongings of homeless campers on King and Isenberg streets and in the Iwilei area shortly after a new city ordinance was passed by the City Council. Mayor Peter Carlisle on Dec. 9 signed into law Bill 54, which prohibits keeping personal items, including furniture and clothing, in public areas such as sidewalks and parks. The City Council earlier voted 8-1 to pass the "stored property" ordinance.and signed into law by Carlisle. The new law prohibits people from storing tents, furniture, clothing and other personal belongings on sidewalks.

Officials gave removal notices to 25 people at Pawaa In-Ha Park — at King and Kaheka streets — and 19 combined at Moiliili Field and Old Stadium Park. On Jan. 18, 38 notices were issued.

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