The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii Foundation (“ACLU”) and the Honolulu law firm of Davis Levin Livingston today announced that they are representing Jamie and Tess Meier, whose peaceful protest in support of gender equality on a Kalakaua Avenue sidewalk was abruptly halted by police intervention. Both were unlawfully cited for their conduct. The ACLU and Davis Levin Livingston will appear on Monday morning, September 19, 2011 to enter a “not guilty” plea for the protesters. The attorneys have asked City and County of Honolulu (“CCH”) Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro to dismiss immediately the charges that the Meiers violated Revised Ordinances of Honolulu (“ROH”) § 10-1.3(a)(5) (failing to obtain a parks department permit for “meetings or gatherings or other similar activity held by organizations, associations or groups”) because the ordinance is unconstitutional and does not apply to the Meiers’ First Amendment activities.
On August 21, 2011, Jamie and Tess Meier held two protests, one outside Haleiwa Beach Park and one on a Kalakaua Avenue sidewalk, at which they held signs and circulated a petition advocating for gender equality as part of a nationwide protest, National Go Topless Day, opposing gender discrimination. The yearly event is held in late August 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. Despite having been notified in advance of Hawaii law that protects such speech, the Honolulu Police Department (“HPD”) officers intervened to halt the lawful protest and threatened both of the protesters with arrest. Both were ultimately cited by the police and required to terminate their protest.
“The law in this area is very well settled. No permit was needed for the Meiers’ protest and it was obviously the intent of the HPD to terminate it because they either objected to the content of the Meiers’ speech or their method of expression. The Meiers had a right to protest on the sidewalk, in the parks or at any other public forum without a permit,” stated Matthew Winter, Davis Levin Livingston attorney, “The U.S. and Hawaii Constitutions protect our right to free speech and HPD has an obligation to uphold and respect those rights.”
ACLU Staff Attorney Laurie Temple added, “As APEC 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.”
On September 14, 2011, the ACLU and DLL urged CCH Prosecuting Attorney Kaneshiro to drop the criminal charges against the Meiers. Arraignment is set for September 19, 2011 at 8:30 a.m. at the Oahu First Circuit District Court, Kauikeaouli Hale, 1111 Alakea Street.