Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023|
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A Hawaii Supreme Court verdict regarding a Maui telescope protester could have implications for Maunakea protesters.
Samuel Kaeo, a Hawaiian studies professor at the University of Hawaii Maui College, was charged with disorderly conduct in 2015 after physically blocking a construction convoy from traveling to the summit of Haleakala, where the Daniel K. Inouye Telescope was then being built.
Six years later, the state Supreme Court has dismissed that charge, ruling that the lower courts invoked the term “disorderly conduct” erroneously.
Hayden Aluli, Kaeo’s attorney, said the thrust of the Supreme Court’s decision is based around the fact that one of the elements of disorderly conduct is that is causes “physical inconvenience or alarm by a member or members of the public.”
However, Aluli said he argued — and the Supreme Court agreed — that blocking about 20 people in a construction convoy does not count as disrupting members of the public.
“That construal of the statute would have made it so that a family getting boisterous with each other at a private party would be considered disorderly conduct instead of just a private dispute,” Aluli said.
Kaeo said he is pleased that the verdict upheld Hawaiians’ rights to free speech and protest against private enterprises, adding that his circumstances could be applied to the protest against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.
On July 17, 2019, 38 individuals were arrested while blocking the Maunakea Access Road and were charged with obstruction. Although they were not charged with disorderly conduct, Kaeo said his case is informative in creating a clear delineation between the general public and other entities.
“We have a clear understanding now that ‘private’ and ‘public’ are not the same,” Kaeo said. “And we have to question, what is the role of the police in providing security for these private entities?”
Four of the 38 individuals arrested on Maunakea were found not guilty in August.
Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune- herald.com.
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