Over 100 people this afternoon lined South Beretania Street, from the Honolulu Police Department headquarters to the Hawaii State Capitol, in a public showing of support to local police officers.
Last month Honolulu police officers shot and killed a suspect in two separate incidents, and HPD has drawn criticism for its fatal use of force in both high-profile cases.
On April 5, police shot and killed 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap, a Micronesian boy, after responding to an armed robbery minutes earlier and chasing a car reportedly stolen with Sykap inside. Days later, on April 14, police shot and killed 29-year-old Lindani Myeni, a South African man, after responding to a burglary call in Nuuanu.
HPD has refused to released body-worn camera footage of Sykap’s killing, a move that has also drawn criticism, but organizers of Saturday’s rally say the released footage and dispatch calls in Myeni’s case suggest that police had properly handled the situation.
“The split-second decision (the officers made) was not shoot him immediately. … They let themselves get beat to a pulp, quite literally, before they took his life,” said Michael Kitchens, one of the rally’s organizers.
Kitchens, an administrator for Stolen Stuff Hawaii, best represented by its community Facebook page, said the purpose of the rally was to support upstanding police officers, especially during the last few years that included the death of two officers in a Hibiscus Drive shooting in January 2020, the early retirement of two police chiefs and the coronavirus pandemic.
“Now there’s this narrative that’s very anti-law enforcement. We just feel that they needed support,” Kitchens said. “They needed to see that the community does care about them and it’s not just all the doom and gloom that we’re hearing on the news and seeing online.”
Kitchens doesn’t think race played a role in the Myeni case, as some critics of HPD believe, citing the diversity in Hawaii and among Honolulu police. Hawaii Public Radio last year revealed that there were racial disparities in HPD’s enforcement of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, although HPD has questioned the findings.
Tiger Mosier, 62, from Nanakuli, was at the rally this afternoon with his wife Diane. Their son-in-law is an HPD officer, but even if he wasn’t, Mosier said he’d still show support for the police.
“It’s that kind of job that a lot of people expect to get done, but they don’t appreciate it,” he said. “When you have an emergency, you call for a police officer. We’re super glad that they show up.”
Motorists honked in support of the rally, including a convoy of vehicles with mounted flags in support of police, Native Hawaiians and even former President Donald Trump.
Mark Talaeai, who runs the popular local Instagram page Mean Hawaii and also helped organize the rally, said there’s a lot of community support for HPD. But people stay quiet about it because it’s a touchy subject.
“I feel a lot of people are in support of HPD, but they don’t want to ruffle feathers, so they stay neutral and not say anything. … Their friends might not back HPD,” Talaeai said.
Other organizers of the rally include the Back Dah Blue social media page and Jack James, who was a campaign manager for Councilman Augie Tulba.