Protesting Monsanto on Maui

SOURCE: Brad Parsons ( SUBHEAD: Maui group holds week of protest against GMOs crops near Monsanto office in Kihei. Police claim trespass. By Wendy Osher on 23 January 2012 for Maui Now - ( Image above: Maui activists demonstrate against Monsanto GMO products. Photos by Madeline Ziecker. For more see (

A week of Occupy Wall Street Maui events kick off today with the establishment of an encampment near the Monsanto offices in Kihei.

A series of marches, rallies and vigils are planned throughout the week as the group expresses their concerns over herbicide use, production of GMO products, and arguments of impacts on small farmers.

An event flyer makes claims of food supply control, government manipulation and environmental poisons.

Monsanto Hawaii Community Affairs Director, Paul Koehler responded to the planned demonstrations saying that while the company respects everyone’s right to voice their opinion, he said, “It’s unfortunate that a number of misleading and factually incorrect statements about Monsanto and genetically engineered crops continue to circulate.”

He said the company recognizes that the topics can be complex and reiterated the company’s commitment to transparency and dialogue.

“We’re happy to have an open, respectful discussion with anyone genuinely interested in learning more about who we are and what we do,” he said.

The week of events planned by Occupy Wall Street Maui and posted on the website include:

  • Monday, January 23, 2012: a roundup-themed garden highlighting concerns over herbicide use.
  • Tuesday, January 24, 2012: a march is planned past Monsanto crops along the Piilani Highway in South Maui.
  • Wednesday, January 25, 2012: a rally in Kahului is planned to spread information on the effects of GMO products.
  • Thursday, January 26, 2012: a march is planned in Wailuku to protest Monsanto and claims of the company’s influence in government.
  • Friday, January 27, 2012: An Occupy with Aloha event is planned at the University of Hawaii Maui College.
  • Saturday, January 28, 2012: Plans to Occupy local farmers markets and fruit stands, and gathering for a day of teach-ins, music, and organic food is planned.
  • Sunday, January 29, 2012: A dusk vigil will be held for small farmers at the occupation site fronting Monsanto on Maui.

Koehler said Monsanto Hawaii is working with the Police Department to ensure safety of all during the planned Occupy events. “Our number one concern,” he said, “is for the safety of everyone involved, including that of drivers passing by on the highway, pedestrians, our employees and the demonstrators.”

ACLU confronts Maui PD on free speech By Wendy Osher on 23 January 2012 for Maui Now - ( Image above: Maui activists demonstrate along Piilani Highway in Kihei under supervision of Maui PD.. Photos by Madeline Ziecker.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii filed a complaint letter with the County of Maui this week citing concerns over First Amendment rights of protesters demonstrating near the Monsanto facility along the Pi’ilani Highway in Kihei.

Members of the Occupy Wall Street Maui group began the week-long protest on Monday to expresses their concerns over herbicide use, production of GMO products, and impacts on small farmers.

When the protest started, Monsanto officials found fault with claims against the company, but acknowledged the right for individuals to express their opinion.

The ACLU letter, dated on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, alleges OWSM members were threatened with trespass and instructed to leave the site after sunset because of safety concerns.

In the ACLU letter, the foundation states, “there is evidence to suggest that the county is singling out the Occupy protesters for harassment based on the content of their speech.”

The ACLU letter states that “vague safety concerns” were used “in justifying statements that protesters must leave at night.” It further states that, “No government official has given any basis for the statement that the safety of the protesters, the drivers, or the general public is at risk.”

A response letter from Deputy Corporation Counsel Moana M. Lutey states, “It is my understanding that the protestors leave of their own volition and not as a result of any threats by the MPD. In fact, it would make sense to leave at nightfall because the two protest areas are not well lit at night.”

OWSM protester, Brady Townsend said members of the group spent months planning the event. He said, “We researched it thoroughly, and got permits for our marches, but were told after a long run-around we did not need one for the site itself as it is on public property.”

OWSM members say they had planned to maintain a visible presence on the site 24 hours a day for the week; however, when rented portable sanitary facilities arrived, they say Maui police officers “turned them away.”

Officials from the County Department of the Corporation Counsel said, “In terms of the portable toilet permit, this cannot be construed as an act of harassment by MPD. If a permit was denied, I do not know who would have denied it,” stated Lutey in the Jan. 25, 2012 response letter to the ACLU.

Lutey further stated, “There is no provision in the County Code for the issuance of a portable toilet permit. As a result, no county agency could have denied the permit.”

The group released two videos saying police actions contradict the county’s position. The videos are posted on the OWSM Facebook page at:, and

Corporation Counsel states that none of the protesters have been arrested, cited, or threatened with arrest or citation for protesting at Monsanto. “Instead, the protesters have simply been asked to comply with the same rules that apply to sign wavers (i.e. maintaining a certain distance from intersections for traffic safety, do not stand in the middle of a divided highway, etc.),” Lutey stated.

A request for comment from Monsanto was granted with the following statement from the company’s Community Affairs Director, Paul Koehler, who said, “This is a legal and safety matter outside of our purview, so we respectfully defer to county and state authorities.”

The OWSM group has plans to continue the demonstration as planned through Sunday, January 29, 2012, concluding with a dusk vigil. It is unclear if the event will run into the evening.


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