Security Strategy at Bill 2491 Hearing

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.

The Line-Up
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.



Anonymous said...

Glad I wasn't there, 3800 miles away watching Livestream.

KCC would have been better.

Anonymous said...

When the police guard and "protect" private corporate interests, like Monsanto and Syngenta at the expense of all tax payers, then you know we are in deep fascist trouble. This is what happens when government assumes partnership with private enterprise and is defined as fascism, just like in Hitler's Nazi Germany. The same thing happened when police showed up in a mighty force to guard Superferry interests a few years back which later proved to be a military project with no interests whatsoever in serving the public nor turning an honest profit. After the Superferry declared itself bankrupt, it was sold to the military, its intended goal, as a proven "seaworthy" vessel while refusing to pay debts incurred by the state of Hawaii on behalf of Superferry.. Thanks to Gov. Linda Lingle for her part in this criminal fiasco which had full police support as the people in opposition were arrested and abused by the cops during their protests of Superferry. Hitler would approve of police protection of the blue shirts as he would have approved of Superferry corporate fascism.

Bye bye Constitutional Rights.

Unknown said...

think the KPD presence was needed to ensure violence would not break out. They were professional and courteous the whole time. That being said, deciding the fate of our island in terms of it's environment, its toxicity and its reputation should not be decided by the slightly larger presence of paid GMO Seed company employees who were allegedly Kauai paid employees and subcontractors (truckers) and those flown in to attend the meeting. Money might be able to buy almost everything but it wont buy you a new life and you cant eat it (well you can but you wouldnt live for long).

This is about our keiki; our land, our water, our ocean. JUST GO AWAY GMO Companies! To the blue shirt girls walking behind me calling me Haole and "F" u over and over, then telling me to go back to California, I have nothing but compassion for you and pray for your health. I am not from California, I am Borinke from Kauai (for 36 years) I was here before these three 20 something yr old ignorant girls were even born. I have family buried here. Very sad but evident of the stupidity out there. I was able to show support for 5 hours in a red shirt and except for those sorry immature women, everyone else was respectful, which is what dialogue should be all about. I saw a bunch of my westside friends and many were concerned; the only ones wearing the blue shirts were those who work for or benefit from the seed companies. And even those guys were cool and we shook hands and laughed and caught up a bit. no one else was disrespectful or obnoxious, but those girls... they will someday grow up and I will pray they don't suffer the consequences of letting these companies use them as lab rats. Again, this could have easily escalated into a riot had it not been for a strong show of force by our KPD, many of which I know personally to be decent, outstanding human beings.

Tim Bynum said...

I can assure you the change of venue was to accommodate larger numbers. KCC had too many logistic problems. Vet center worked with us. There was no strategic motive. Council service staff were great.

Anonymous said...

With so much police presence, why didn't they direct people away from no parking areas instead of letting it go and ticketing everyone later? Corporate testifiers were given preference over accessibility to the venue. I didn't have the luxury of being given the day off but showed up about 4ish after pau hana. By the time I got in, blue dominated. I hesitated to wear red, thought I should go in neutral white but ended up wearing a red tee from home to show my support of 2491. Kinda regret it now because I feel like I bought in to the divisiveness which I dislike. I sat next to a group of blue shirts who were probably slightly uncomfortable as I was, but as time wore on, it got better and we remained polite and almost friendly. The shirts made it uncomfortable. Police presence was a bit overkill. Overall, it was as organized as it could ever be but I agree, accommodations should've been made for our kupuna to sit inside. I don't understand why the industry was able to rent out the soccer field - it felt like preferential treatment. Not to mention the damage to the field by all the vehicles that our taxes go into maintaining.

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Tim,

Thanks for your view on the venue. I still think it was made easy for the GMO corporations to come and go and harder for those concerned with the health risks of what those corporations are doing to come and testify.

Renting a large field for the corporations use that was set between general public parking and the venue was a barrier for those who wanted to speak up for the bill. At best it was an innocent error.

I maintain that the less presence of authority figures with guns at a public meeting the better.

Regardless of these criticisms, I support you and Gary and anyone else who joins you in trying to protect Kauai.

Juan Wilson
IB Publisher

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