SUBHEAD: Pure speculation on the strategy behind the change in venue for hearing on Bill 2491.
By Juan Wilson on 1 August 2013 for Island Breath -
Image above: Several uniformed and plainclothes Kauai police officers control the entrance to the Kauai Veteran's Center. The man at right wore a bulletproof vest, carried a gun under his shirt and seemed to be in charge. All officers were armed. At least one had a taser. Those who were to testify stood with backs to wall at left and waited to be called. At the moment of this photo Nani Rogers (white hair at lower right corner) who is Hawaiian and 74 years old, was requesting a seat inside. It took five officers to deny her entry. Photo by Juan Wilson.
I would characterize the shift in venue for this event from the Kauai Community College auditorium to the Kauai Veterans Center as a strategic move to increase the impact of the corporate efforts to display public rejection of the bill and for the police to have intimidating control over this public meeting. It was like no other public meeting I have seen on Kauai.
The Shuttle Trip
I arrived about an hour before the hearing at the Kauai Veterans Center. No parking was available at the KVC or out in front on Kapule Highway. The assigned parking for the hearing was at Vidinha Stadium a few hundred yards away.
More than a 200 hundred private cars were parked at Vidinha Stadium already. As I began walking to the distant KVC with my briefcase I was hailed by two women at a folding table with walkie-talkies. They invited me to take the air-conditioned shuttle bus.
A Kauai bus was loading and I got on. It was a circuitous route around on Kaana Road to get around grassy playing fields. There were two large orange plastic obstacles (like Jersey barriers) the shuttle had to weave through before we passed between the Police Headquarters and the Court/Jail facility beyond. A check-point in 2008 Baghdad came to mind.
The place was certainly living up to its Tropo-Fascist architectural styling. The shuttle turned onto the Kapule Highway. Many demonstrators were dressed in identical blue tee shirts that read on the front "Proud To Be..." and on the back "...supporting Kauai Ag". They held signs against the bill and encouraged people to honk their horns. Only a few red shirted supporters of the bill were out on the highway. The shuttle ran us down the line to the front of the Veterans Center. The trip was eight-tenths of a mile long.
When I arrived at the KVC, there was already no seating available inside. Hundreds of people milled about out, about equally between red and blue t-shirts. The red tee-shirts read on the front "Pass the Bill" and on the back "Kauai Has The Right To Know".
Image above: Two men in blue preparing to testify against bill 2491. Behind a pregnant women in red top supporting the bill next to a man with a black t-shirt from Ohana Kauai. I was told Ohana Kauai provided the red "Pass the Bill" red shirts that many wore.
A large number of red shirts were in the shade of a large tent (approximately 40'x80') that had been set up on a lawn behind the KVC parking lot. The tent has some refreshments and a remote TV monitoring the sounds and sights within the KVC.
In the parking lot about an even number of blue and red shirted people mixed. Of course not everybody wore a team t-shirt. About a third of those milling in the parking lot, including myself, wore their regular clothes. My personal take is that wearing the colors militarizes and ultimately alienates the factions on different side of such issues, much like the blue and red of the Crips and Bloods street gangs. I was wearing a black floral aloha shirt and might pass as neutral.
The Sergeant of Arms of the County Council came out of the single entrance that was guarded by Kauai Police with a clipboard. He read names of those who had not gotten to testify at the June 26th meeting on the issue, but who had signed up. I had come to read my wife's testimony as she had to work that day and was suffering from a sharp sinus headache.
Image above: Panoramic view of those lined up yo testify on the Bill 2491 standing against the outside north wall of the KVC. Note Kauai jail in center. Photo by Juan Wilson.
About fifty to a hundred names were read off and people began to line up against the building in the order they would testify. There was no place to sit or get water. The majority of those who were to testify were wearing red or were others I knew who were not wearing red but supported the bill.
Image above: The wait to testify went on for over an hour before things began moving. Photo by Juan Wilson.
I also saw people I knew who had signed up to testify but were intimidated by the whole situation and didn't line up.
There were rumors from several people that many of the blue shirted were GMO employees that were flown in from Molokai and Oahu. That might explain another reason for the venue change. The KVC is across the street from the Lihue Airport.
Occasionally the KCV parking lot was filled with the sounds of jet engines. There were helicopters hovering overhead and on one occasion three Air Force fighter jets passed over the KVC.
Inside the KVC
Image above: Panoramic view inside the KVC those who were to testify lined up against the wall (on left and right) with a sea of blue shirts center. Click to enlarge. Photo by Juan Wilson.
After about an hour those who waited to testify were lead a few at a time into the KVC to stand in another line before getting to the mike. The first impression I had was how many blue shirts were inside. Hundreds. They must have been seated much earlier in the day to have filled the hall so early.
The few who were testifying as hold overs from the last meeting had to leave the hearing as soon as they had spoken, so I only heard a dozen or so testimonies. Most were for the bill.
The testimony I heard fell into two lists of interest.
Those favoring the bill were focused on health, the environment of the island and food security. They invoked the aina and keiki (land and children). More than half of those who I heard testify were women - two of whom were pregnant.
Those opposing the bill focused on job security, the safety of the technology and hope it can feed a compromised world. They invoked money and corporate promises.
One blue shirt who appeared to be a field worker testified before I did. He finished emotionally by stating that his son had diabetes and that if was not for advanced bio-technology of GMO modified bacteria to create insulin, his son would be dead today.
Image above: Blake Drolson, a founding member of GMO Free Kauai, speaks to the County Council. Photo by Juan Wilson.
After I read my wife's written testimony to the council committee, I left the hall and wandered over to the GMO Free Kauai tent. See yellow path on aerial image below. I spent some time there talking to friends and listening to testimony on the TV monitor. There was shade, seats, coconut water and children playing.
Back to the Parking Lot
A while later I thought I'd walk back to my car at Vidinha Stadium. It was straight behind the KVC and south across a soccer field. I headed over that way. I came across five Kauai County uniformed police officers standing in a cluster at the back of the KVC. They told me there was no entry there and that I would have to walk back north to the parking lot of the Court/Jail and go around on Kaana Road.
I went around to Kaana Road past the barriers and found an opening in the fence that bordered the soccer fields. I began to cross one of the fields. I found several rows of vehicles parked there. Many were white unmarked large passenger vans. Only a few women in blue shirts were among the vehicles. I guessed they were the GMO company's shuttles.
On the opposite side of the field I could see a gate to the parking lot. There were four men standing there wearing blue shirts. As I got nearer I noticed some orange plastic fencing tied over the opening of the fence leading to the parking lot. As I approached the fence and reached for a section of the plastic screening the opening one of the guys and blue reached out and released a corner of the plastic fence to provide me access through. I passed.
As I headed to the parking lot the man called out "What's in your briefcase?" I turned and said, "My lunch, a camera, some pens and papers." He asked, 'What did you think of what went on inside today?"
I told him about the man in blue who testified about his son with diabetes. I told him my first thought was that high consumption of GMO high-fructose-corn-syrup in sodas and many refined packaged foods might be playing a role in childhood obesity and the epidemic of diabetes here in Hawaii.
He told me he had five kids and lived in Kekaha and that they were all healthy. I mentioned that if he was a meat eater - whether it be chicken, beef or pork - that which he ate was fed on GMO corn, with additives of antibiotics, bone meal and god knew what else.
As I walked away he said "I eat plenty pork that was fed GMO corn."
Image above: GoogleEarth image of the KVC site with Vidinha Stadium at right and Police Headquarters and the Court/Jail facility at right. Note the red path is the shuttle trip to the KVC and the yellow path is my walk back to the car. The large blue rectangle is where white unmarked vans and other vehicles were parked. Only those in blue shirts were in the area. The small blue rectangle on the right is where five uniformed police stood that directed me away from the blue parking area and around the long way to the parking lot. The small blue rectangle on the left is where the only opening to the field's south side was "guarded" by four men in blue shirts who had some orange plastic fencing blocking the opening. Click to enlarge.
At the End of the Day
As I implied at the beginning, I think this change of venue from KCC to KVC was carefully orchestrated. The whole event felt like going through a TSA security check. The proximity and security of the Police/Court/Jail facility made sure of that.
I'm sure that the overwhelming crowd at the hearing on the 26th set this up. There was just so much disorderly goings on with people just showing up. The results were more "security and control". It wasn't so much a public meeting as a heavily policed episode of the TV reality show Survivor.