The scene outside Honolulu Hale turned hostile as anti-vaccination and anti-mask protesters demanded a meeting with Mayor Rick Blangiardi on Wednesday.
A video circulating on social media shows Blangiardi snapping at a man during the demonstration orchestrated by Aloha Freedom Coalition, a group that describes itself as an advocate for personal freedoms.
The group was protesting the mayor’s new Safe Access O‘ahu program that would require patrons at establishments such as restaurants, movie theaters and gyms to have a negative COVID-19 test within the last 48 hours or show proof of a vaccine starting Sept. 13.
The mayor met with demonstrators for an hour, answering questions from the group.
However, the mayor verbally clashed with protesters after a woman incorrectly pointed out that the federal Food and Drug Administration recalled all polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and asks him why they are still being used in Hawaii.
The FDA actually only recalled one company’s PCR test. PCR tests are still the most accurate test available to detect COVID-19.
In response to the woman’s question, Blangiardi said, “I don’t know the answer to that.”
A man standing in front of the mayor yelled, “Well you should!”
In response, Blangiardi raised his voice and took a step toward the man waving his finger.
“You know what, let me tell you something, you don’t get to tell me what I should know,” Blangiardi said.
“You don’t get to talk to me like that, OK … I come out here, you don’t get to talk to me that way.”
The demonstrators yelled at Blangiardi to hold a maskless, in-person town hall of 500 people.
“No Zoom!” several protestors yelled.
This comes as the state is seeing record numbers of COVID-19 infection and local hospitals are beginning to cancel elective procedures in an attempt to increase hospital capacity for severely ill COVID-19 patients.
In addition to the Safe Access O‘ahu program, Blangiardi canceled large gatherings, limiting them to 25 people outside and 10 people inside. Establishments also will no longer be able to serve alcohol past 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 13.
In a statement, Blangiardi reiterated the importance of listening to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which advises people to wear masks and keep their distance.
“This morning I met with a handful of demonstrators who don’t believe in the vaccine for over an hour, listening to their perspective and attempting to answer their questions, even though I was insulted and berated at times,” he said.
“I continually take the time to listen to the many varying voices in our community with great concern. Today’s exchange did not change my belief in the CDC and the medical community’s guidance that getting vaccinated is the best weapon against this dreadful disease. I will continue making decisions based on what is best for the overall public health.”
Aloha Freedom Coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Honolulu City Council also plans to discuss today asking Gov. David Ige to reinstate the pre-travel testing program, as well as the mayor’s Safe Access O‘ahu program.