Was it the name of the event — “Jam the Harbor” — that raised alarm in minds trained to enforce law and order?
Was it the idea of a celebration thumbing the island’s collective nose at Hawaii Superferry with a celebration to mark the one-year anniversary of Kauai being “ferry-free” that was just too much for some to bear?
Was it the prospect of unruly throngs converging at Nawiliwili Harbor that evoked a knee-jerk clamp-down response among the tattered vestiges of the Unified Command?
Or was it simply a case of the cops and parks and recreation staff wanting to protect public safety — and minimize county liability — by ensuring that event organizers follow county rules?
It’s hard to know for sure, unless one has access to the email and phone records of KPD, Honolulu Police Dept., Hawaii Superferry, Gov. Lingle, the Coast Guard, Dept. of Land and Natural Resources and the county Dept. of Parks and Rec.
The end result, though, is the same: the People for the Preservation of Kauai is no longer officially sponsoring any event at Nawiliwili Park on Sunday afternoon.
The group had been planning "Jam the Harbor," a free event that promised music, a potluck, a homemade jam contest, a water parade and keiki games, for several weeks. Its president, Rich Hoeppner, told me yesterday that early on he met with Police Chief Darryl Perry and local Coast Guard officials to share his plans. Neither, he said, had any objections or concerns.
At some point, Rich said, Chief Perry reportedly got a call from the Honolulu Police Dept. “saying it was going to be a horrendous event, but the Chief reassured them that he trusted me and thought it would be fine.”
But on Monday and Tuesday, with the event less than a week away, Rich said he received five or six phone calls from Lt. Kaleo Perez of the Patrol Services Bureau “with question after question about the event.”
In forwarding me an email from Lt. Perez, Rich — a former police chief on the mainland — wrote:
I told him [Perez] I had talked to Chief Perry several times and there was no concern expressed by him. He [Perez] said the word had not got down to him. There seems to be a communication problem internally or somebody has a short memory. There couldn't possibly be a problem with honesty with Police Officers.
Perez expressed concerns about alcohol, different pro/con factions fighting and other things that we have never had problems with at any of our functions.
The group previously sponsored two Superferry-related gatherings at the park, which were scantily attended.
The email — sent at 7:41 a.m. Tuesday morning — went on to include comments from Park Ranger John Martin of the County Parks Section, who apparently was responding to an inquiry from Lt. Perez:
Yes, a permit is required, the fact that [they] never got one in the past does not make it ok. Because they are inviting the public to participate in their event, we will be requiring them to provide us with insurance coverage that shows the County of Kaua‘i as the additional insured. We will also be requiring them bring in portable toilets, the number depends on the amount of people they anticipate will attend. They will be responsible for cleanup and again, depending on the amount of people they expect, we may require them to bring in a dumpster to handle trash.
They will need permission from our office to enter the park to setup a trailer for a stage and they will have to set it up in such a way that the music does not cause a problem to surrounding businesses and Banyan Harbor residents. We will need a schematic of the park, showing where everything will be setup and taking place. We would also like to know what their parking plan is, as we will not allow vehicles to be parked inside the park boundaries.
Normally we require requests for large events to be in our office a minimum of 60 days prior to the event date. If they can come up with everything we need by Wednesday afternoon at the latest, I can process everything for them.
Rich said it would be impossible for him to meet those requirements in time, especially the insurance provision, so the group had no choice but to withdraw its sponsorship of the event.
It’s all a rather interesting turn of events, especially since previous PPK celebrations at the park were decidedly low-key affairs that apparently didn't even register on KPD's radar. And that raises the question: who put the bug in Lt. Perez's ear?
“At this point I have no control over who shows up or what they do,” Rich told me yesterday, adding that he thought more people might come than otherwise would have “because now they’re pissed. What this is is selective enforcement.”
Hmmm. Perhaps any gathering to celebrate public resistance to the Superferry is simply destined to be as spontaneous and unorganized as the original protests that made the ferry turn back a year ago, and stay away ever since.