Some are teachers. Some are students. Many are parents. They also include community leaders, activists and the wife of a state senator.
Collectively, they have been described as
“arrestables” — meaning people willing to be
arrested for a community cause.
Over the last two weeks, 111 people volunteered to be arrested for protesting a controversial wind energy farm in Kahuku.
The number is staggering to some observers. A few attorneys familiar with cases of mass civil disobedience in Hawaii said they couldn’t recall a bigger instance of protester arrests in the past couple of decades.
“One hundred ten arrests is pretty huge in my view,” said Hayden Aluli, an attorney who has represented people arrested for inhibiting construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea on Hawaii island and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakala on Maui.
On Mauna Kea, 39 people have been arrested since July for blocking a road needed for TMT construction. Another 31 people were arrested in 2015 attempting to block TMT construction.
Other demonstrations in Hawaii decades ago have led to more arrests, such as when 141 people were arrested in 1990 for trespassing on a site slated for a geothermal power plant in
a Big Island rainforest.
For many protesters, deciding to get arrested isn’t an easy decision. The consequences can be serious and long-lasting with the possibility of imprisonment, fines and a record that can affect being hired for a job.
Mark Holladay Lee chose to be arrested Wednesday
at about 2:45 a.m. in Kahuku after refusing to clear a driveway needed to deliver wind turbine parts to the wind farm site.
Lee, a 45-year-old commercial photographer from Hauula who goes to church every Sunday and has two sons in high school, had never been arrested before and knew that doing so goes against the notion of being
a good citizen.
“You’ve been taught your whole life to not get arrested,” he said.
Lee also was concerned about what his children would think. “I don’t want them to feel like breaking the law is OK, but I want them to know that standing up for what is right is OK,” he said.
Ultimately, his concerns about impacts from the Na Pua Makani wind farm on the community because of the proximity of turbines to homes, schools and farms outweighed his reluctance
to go beyond participating
in legal demonstrations by standing in the way of a wind farm equipment delivery.
Virginia-based AES Corp., which is building the eight wind turbines in Kahuku, said its turbines produce noise about as loud as “light traffic” for the closest population and will have no ill health effects.
As he lay on the ground waiting for police to move in, Lee looked up at the stars and said he felt an “overwhelming peace” that he was doing the right thing.
“It wasn’t about stopping them that night,” he said. “It’s more of a statement.”
Others who have been
arrested in the wind farm protest include Donnalee
Fevella, wife of state Sen. Kurt Fevella, who was among 27 people arrested
in Kalaeloa on the night of Oct. 20 trying to prevent trucks carrying turbine equipment from departing
a base yard.
Aokea West, a 22-year-old assistant teacher from Kaaawa arrested Thursday morning in Kahuku, said he felt it was his place to do
so in support of community members who have long
opposed the wind farm
being developed above the
“It’s just a beautiful thing to see us all rise up,” he said.
Kent Fonoimoana, former president of the Kahuku Community Association, who has been contesting Na Pua Makani since 2008, was arrested with West and said that people feeling they need to be arrested to put extra emphasis on their objections could have been avoided.
“It would not have to come to this point had our political leaders listened to what our community was saying,” he said.
Some Kahuku residents, including members of the Kahuku Community Association before Fonoimoana got involved, support Na Pua Makani, which has committed to contribute $4.5 million in community benefits.
Wind farm opponents say that in addition to the concerns about health problems from noise and shadows, they also object
to a state permit that allows turbines to kill endangered Hawaiian hoary bats.
AES Corp. said it will mitigate bat deaths by improving bat habitats away from the turbines.
The company won the necessary permits and said it has begun construction. AES said the transportation of wind turbine parts from Kalaeloa to Kahuku will
continue on a Sunday-to-
Thursday schedule until late November. The company hopes to begin generating electricity from the wind
turbines next year. The power will be bought by
Hawaiian Electric and used throughout Oahu.
Fonoimoana said people demonstrating now feel they have no other recourse after unsuccessful regulatory and legal challenges.
“It is heartbreaking to see people getting arrested,” he said.
The experience of being arrested over the Kahuku wind farm protests typically includes having your hands zip-tied behind your back and being transported in
a dark police wagon to a
police station where officers take your fingerprints, mug shot photo and personal possessions except for basic
Spending time in a holding cell until the processing can be completed and bail money is paid also is part of the ordeal, and has ranged on some recent nights from 45 minutes to several hours depending on the number of people arrested.
Hawaii Community Bail Fund volunteers have been helping people arrested over the Na Pua Makani protests pay their bail, which has been $100 for first infractions and $500 for second arrests.
Oriana McCallum, a 36-year-old preschool teacher from Kahuku who was arrested Thursday night in Kalaeloa, said she didn’t have to wait in what looked like a cold, dirty cell at the Kapolei police station because she had her own cash for bail.
“The (police) wagon was probably the worst experience,” she said, explaining that it was dark and cramped but totally worth it.
“Just knowing that all these people are volunteering for my village, my kids, my community is so meaningful,” she said.
Aluli, the attorney, said it is a big commitment to be
arrested in such instances because going to court is
serious and should be handled by a private or court-
Kahuku wind farm cases have involved violations
of disobeying police officer orders related to traffic control, a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. That’s the same penalty faced by those arrested over TMT construction.
Earlier this month the state Attorney General’s
Office offered a plea deal to TMT protesters arrested in July that would dispose of their cases if they each pay a $100 fine.
In the 2015 TMT case, Aluli said, two defendants without legal representation were convicted while the rest avoided conviction. One of the two arrested, Aluli said, recently just won an appeal at the Hawaii Supreme Court.
In the Inouye telescope case, those arrested were charged with obstructing a government operation, a full misdemeanor with penalties of up to one year in jail and
a $2,000 fine.
In the geothermal case a judge sentenced the first two demonstrators accused of trespassing to five hours of community service. Another group was issued fines of $25 to $50 to be paid off through community service at $5 a hour. One of the arrested protesters is now a state senator representing the Puna district, Russell Ruderman.