Showdown over signs; ante upped in Lincoln Park dispute

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Police were called in Wednesday morning when counter-protesters physically removed signs they find offensive in a Downtown Hilo park that has a playground for small children.


Police were called in Wednesday morning when counter-protesters physically removed signs they find offensive in a Downtown Hilo park that has a playground for small children.

James Borden, who for five-plus years has displayed signs protesting abortion, homosexuality, President Barack Obama and Islam from the bed of his pickup truck next to Lincoln Park and on the fence of the park itself, called police Wednesday when a group calling itself Aloha Na Keiki took his signs from the park and placed them next to Borden’s parked truck.

“They’re taking my signs down!” Borden told a police dispatcher on the phone. “They have no permission to touch my personal property!”

About a half-dozen patrol and community policing officers responded, but no arrests were made.

“I’ll be back again,” Borden vowed after officers responded.

Borden and a small contingent of supporters, who call themselves Yahweh Lincoln Park ministry, remained after the group of counter-protesters, led by Hilo sound engineer and event promoter Pepe Romero, departed. By early Wednesday afternoon, the signs were back on display.

“I think we achieved our purpose,” Romero said afterward. “I was prepared to be arrested.”

Romero added that he, too, would return, and said his group’s goal is “to take back Lincoln Park” — a recurring theme of the counter-protests.

Among the signs Aloha Na Keiki — which includes mothers, grandmothers and bikers — took down was one proclaiming “abortion doctors are paid assassins,” a slogan Borden shouted at passing cars.

Some heated verbal exchanges occurred between Borden’s and Romero’s followers, but none of the confrontations became physical.

Romero said he supports Borden’s right to free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution but doesn’t believe those protections extend to “messages of hate at a playground intended for small children.”

“Please respect our culture and our ways,” Romero urged Borden via a portable public address system. “Take it to Kalakaua Park where there is no playground and where there is a federal building … right across (Waianuenue Avenue). Take it to Mooheau (Park). Take it anywhere else, but the children do not deserve this. It’s age-inappropriate. From hating Obama, to hating Muslims, to hating gays, to abortion is not a theme for the youngsters.”

He then asked Borden to remove the signs, to which Borden shouted, “No! No! No! No!”

“Then, we’re forced to do this for you,” Romero replied. “This is our park! This is for our kids! Those are our keiki! That’s it! Let’s go!”

At that point, Romero and his supporters removed the signs without destroying them. One bore the caption “CHOICE” and showed the bloody remains of an aborted fetus.

“What the hell is that, brah?” one of the counter-protesters shouted at Borden, pointing to the sign. “What kind of stuff is this for a keiki park?”

Borden said if parents choose not to bring their children to Lincoln Park, it’s “because they don’t want to hear the truth, and they don’t want their children to hear the truth.”


“This is where the line has been drawn, and that’s why I’m here,” he said. “God wants me here. The Holy Ghost wants me here. Jesus Christ wants me here. The Holy Trinity wants me here. And I’m not going anywhere.”

Email John Burnett at