What a delight to wake to the sound of twittering, chirping, singing birds, creating a harmonious impromptu symphony that roused me from dreams and sent the dogs and me out into a warm, damp morning that was just turning orange around the edges.
Forget the news; the real action has been playing out overhead in the darkness the last few evenings, with a waxing moon first dancing with Venus low on the horizon, then cozying up midway between Venus and Jupiter, and last night finally snuggling close to Jupiter, not far from the constellation of Makalii. Simply stunning.
Enroute to a meeting with Planning Director Mike Dahilig on Friday morning — which will be covered in another post — I saw a good-sized group clustered around the Moikeha building, where the police commission was meeting. They were members of the Oklevueha Native American Church of Kauai, and in protest of the cop's December raid on their Church, which resulted in the peyote they use as sacrament being confiscated, they were holding signs with messages like “”let us pray” and “set our buttons free.”
Afterward, I spoke with Shane Johnson, the minister, as well as some Church members who said they were not allowed into the police commission meeting, which is public, so I'm not sure how that was justified. Their numbers certainly didn't exceed the capacity of the room.
I looked at the documentation that Shane had, and I can understand why they were under the impression that local government considered them legit, and thus protected from peyote busts. They have a certificate of good standing from the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs that shows they were incorporated as a nonprofit under the laws of Hawaii, with a declaration from the main church in Utah that establishes them as a branch and states peyote is central to their religion, as well as a General Excise license.
Plus as Shane noted, “We're signed up with the mayor's recycling program. It's not like we're trying to hide anything.”
At any rate, the commissioners said they didn't have the authority to return the peyote, although they would investigate allegations of police wrongdoings from Church members, which will take at least a month. And if you look at the commission's agenda, you will see that a great number of citizen complaints against cops are dropped because of insufficient evidence. In other words, unless you've got the incident on video, like LeBeau Lagmay’s Tasering, you're pretty much screwed.
“We're not trying to attack the police force,” Shane said. “We're just trying to keep from being attacked.”
After the meeting, as a uniformed cop stood by watching just in case whatevah, Church members joined hands, said a prayer and sang a song, and the leaders were anointed with hemp oil. They then went to say hi to the mayor, or more accurately, stand in the foyer beneath his office. Their next plan is to visit the prosecutor, though they might want to make an appointment as she could be out campaigning, I mean, educating seniors about scams and the like.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint letter against Maui County, citing concerns that cops violated the First Amendment rights of Occupy Wall Street Maui protestors during a week-long demonstration outside the Kihei facilities of Monsanto, the epitome of the evil corporation.
According to a report from Maui Now:
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.
“[T]here is evidence to suggest that the county is singling out the Occupy protesters for harassment based on the content of their speech.”
The cops also reportedly turned away porta-potties that OWSM had rented, prompting Deputy Corporation Counsel Moana M. Lutey to state in a reply to the ACLU:
“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. 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.”
So the cops were just going rogue?
I loved Monsanto's response:
“This is a legal and safety matter outside of our purview, so we respectfully defer to county and state authorities.”
Really? Then I guess they wouldn't mind if local government started cracking down on safety issues related to their poison-laden GMO cultivation practices, which is one big reason why the OWSM guys were out there in the first place.