Monday, April 14, 2008

Musings: The Times, They are A-Changin'

It was such a quiet morning when Koko and I went walking that I heard a cardinal taking flight from a utility line, caught the rustle of a gecko jumping off a guardrail and into the brush.

The sun rose and everything turned a dreamy soft pink, including the clouds that were spilling over the summit of Waialeale, drifting lazily along the peaks of Makaleha, massing above the Sleeping Giant. The air, scrubbed clean by last night’s rain, carried the pungent, slightly medicinal scent of eucalyptus, and it was infused with pinkness, too.

Chickens sauntered slowly in front of us, taunting Koko — I swear they know when she’s on a leash — and some of the dog friends we’ve made along our route came over to say good morning. As did my neighbor Andy, although he used words, whereas dogs are all body language.

We walked a ways together and somehow got on the topic of Kauai cops again — I think it started with his comment on the story I wrote about Andrea Brower, and how she has a lot of leadership potential, in part because there’s a sweetness rather than a stridency to her activism, perhaps because she was born and raised here. But other emerging activists were not, and so they have a different style that’s a bit more in your face, which might be why the cops feel like they need protective (aka riot) gear, because some of the new ones aren't originally from here, either.

No doubt about it, both the cops and the protestors — but not the politics — have changed since the days when people demonstrated against the corruption that allowed a hotel (now the Hyatt: correx, I meant Hilton) to be built at Nukolii. And so has Kauai since the time when it had its first traffic light on the cane haul road at Mana and Andy and his friends, on their way up to Kokee or Waimea Canyon, used to slow way down to see if they could get caught at the light.

What a concept. Now that light is no longer functioning because Kekaha Sugar is pau, but we’ve got too many lights to count everyplace else, including a new temporary one at the main entrance to Kilauea, where the traffic has been getting all jammed up since the county started rebuilding the Kolo Road bridge and closed off the town’s second access.

Our new police chief, Darryl Perry, who grew up in Lawai, remembers the old days, too. In our interview last week, he told me of hitchhiking home after basketball practice and waiting sometimes 20 minutes for a car to even drive by the Round Building in Lihue — a scenario that now isn’t even likely in the middle of the night.

But he’s also preparing for the new days, telling me that Kauai is going to get a lot of growth whether we want it or not because it’s so beautiful that lots of people want to live here. And as the infrastructure is upgraded, he said, folks are going to start coming in droves. I didn’t get the sense he especially liked that scenario, but was looking at it from the perspective of needing to move KPD into the 21st Century. And not just with riot/protective gear, but more training and national accreditation intended to reduce the cronyism and corruption that has raised eyebrows among law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Andy said he remembered testifying against the Kapaa bypass road back in the late 1970s, thinking — as did many of his friends — that a lack of infrastructure would slow development. Instead, he said, the county just went ahead and allowed development without infrastructure.

So now we’ve got what we’ve got: infrastructure that’s pretty much maxed out, a whole new class of people who can afford to live wherever they want, a community that’s torn between grow slow and just grow, a totally ineffective county government and a gorgeous island with a lot of vacant land owned primarily by companies that are already moving into upscale development.

It’s not a stretch to think that clashes are likely as frustration mounts and these opposing forces meet. But Kauai is still a place where the social and political structure is largely based upon relationships. That’s changing, too, but it hasn’t disappeared yet.

Chief Perry has stated he’s committed to openness and transparency, and he wants to communicate with and better serve the public. I feel his intention in this regard is sincere, which is why I think it’s really crucial that all those involved in various progressive movements and organizations take him up on that, and start building direct relationships with the KPD.

Because in the end, that’s going to do more to ensure that both the cops and citizens remain safe than any riot gear and tasers ever could.


Anonymous said...

Again, I have to respectfully dissent from the notion that the way to avoid confrontations with police is by cooperating with them, rather than employing a completely different tactic: ensuring the economic and social justice that when absent, creates rebellion.

I think the move toward riot gear is a signal of an unwillingness on the part of the elite to address the concerns of citizens. Pretending it is just a rational response to changing times, as Chief Perry apparently does, is a woeful obfuscation of the true meaning of this development in police/citizen relations.

If the police department was truly committed to ensuring the safety of citizens, rather than protecting the interests of the elite, it would drop the tazers and riot gear and be part of a solution that ensures true justice for the hard-working citizens who are watching their dreams evaporate as corporate profits rise. Of course, the police department will never do that because that is not their job. But at the very least, we should insist as citizens that such a militarized approach to citizen unrest is hardly serving the cause of justice.

I think a deeper question raised in the piece today addresses the difference in social movement strategies and tactics between those of people with deep roots in this small rural community and those of people who have settled here from large urban areas.

A critical difference as I see it is that those of us with urban backgrounds are accustomed to the cloak of anonymity afforded by large population centers, and are more likely to engage in more "confrontational" tactics than those who were raised in a small community with much emphasis on personal relationships. Each tradition and approach has its benefits and drawbacks in social movement building. We have quite a distance to travel, I believe, in analyzing these differences and forging a "mixed plate" of strategic capacity which combines the best of our varied traditions.

I think the work toward finding that mix will be incredibly invigorating and exciting, particularly if it is done in the spirit of mutual respect, curiosity, committment, and humility.

I have lived in rural areas for the last dozen years, and after getting over the shock of little things like running into a friend at the grocery store (a rare event where I grew up)I began to learn much from the activist approach of people raised in small communities. I hope that my "strident" or urban approach hasn't been worthless to them!


Andy Parx said...

In other words Katy, no justice, no peace.

The procurement of all this cop equipment puts an end to any ideas of community policing. Both send "signals" to the community and the former is the wrong one in a small town. The only thing that riot gear will be used for is to protect the privileged, as it’s always been. The more we give them the more likely they will abuse the power and do things like arresting people on public thoroughfares for expressing themselves (and video taping it) claiming it’s private property. That’s violating the law in the service of the lunas, not enforcing it.

Anonymous said...

First of all I have a hard time with cops being from Kauai and working Kauai.
Someone I know was driving drunk with child in car. The driver was out of it, frothing at the mouth and the hole bit. The cop was a cousin of driver, gave me the child and let the driver drive home drunk. Is that sick or what.

Joan Conrow said...

I agree that the absence of social, political and economic justice creates rebellion, as it should.

I'm just saying that until justice, and thus peace, is achieved, it's good to get to know the cops. That's not the same as "cooperating" with them, but a way of ensuring that everyone remains humanized.

And Katy, thanks for making the point about addressing the differences in strategies between those with urban and rural roots. That was really the point of this post.

Anonymous said...

How does 'the absence of economic and social justice' differ from things just not turning out the way you wanted, as in: "ensuring that things not turning out the way we want creates rebellion". Who decides that whether a boat can operate before an EIS or must wait until one is completed justifies going head to head with the cops? Why do the rights of a handful of people who want to prevent cars from getting off the boat supercede the rights of people who want to ride the boat here?

Anonymous said...

i guess the supreme court decided on that one. the thousand or more friends of kauai who showed up to demonstrate their solidarity with HRS 343, the plaintiffs, and the HSC were within their rights to gather and voice their displeasure w/HSF arrogance and their patrons who were bribed w/5$ rides got more than they bargained for. the boys in blue made sure folks were safe and not getting out of hand on either side of the fence.

Mauibrad said...


Like your article in the Honolulu Advertiser for the "April 9-15" section. Nice picture too that you took. For some reason I did not see that in the edition we got here. Glad you pointed it out or I would have missed it.

Got some counts and pics I'll be putting up tonight.

Aloha, Brad

Anonymous said...

nukolii got hyatt?
riot gear moved by kpd to air national guard bldg @ pmrf just this morning! nice training place?
"boys in blue made sure folks were safe and not getting out of hand on either side of the fence." should read "trying to" but, also, were in swat camo with m-16's at NAW. that sight really disturbed me.

Anonymous said...

You cannot love that which does not love you. Kauai has established a ring-pass-not around herself. Only those that love us are welcome here. Others will be turned away like the Superferry until they change and become pono toward the 'aina and the people of Hawaii on all levels.

Anonymous said...

As long as Kauai is part of the United States people have the right to travel here even if they don't love you. I suppose people who think they can stop people who don't love them from coming here is why the cops need riot gear.

Anonymous said...

We can begin with the axiom that the State is organized violence and that it operates through the medium of lies. "Once violence is chosen as method, falsehood becomes principle," said Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Power – of one man, or a group of men – over others, is evil, no matter in whose hands.

Freedom is our true nature.The State is the antithesis of freedom. It makes slaves of all of us – through its power to tax and thus to destroy, its power to make war (means power to make us finance murder), its power to enforce the arbitrary and self-serving "laws" made by one group of men against all other men, its power to abrogate the natural right of men to contract with one another on their own free terms, its power to control domicile and freedom of movement – on and on goes the list of Natural Freedoms usurped by the State.

You all complain only when the force of the state is directed at you; when at others that you don't like then all's well. Sooner or later you will learn that the state is a common enemy of us all.

Anonymous said...

"You all complain only when the force of the state is directed at you; when at others that you don't like then all's well."

Well, those of us who are anarchists don't.

Anonymous said...

I think the militarization of the police is a serious mistake and should not be allowed. It reflects and reinforces an unhelpful polarization where there should be dialogue and debate.

A person wearing the "Robo-Cop" riot gear tends to develop a militarized mindset as well. Citizens observing these militarized police cannot help but see Darth Vader's legions. These costumes inevitably evoke images of fascism and (Thank god!) a lot of people still have a strong anti-fascist impulse.

Joan is right that we have to increase communication with the police. I agree with Andy Parx's view that the militarization signals an end to any pretense of "community policy." We have to reverse that and go back to "community policing."

Perhaps the anarchists will not forgive me, but I hope that others do, when I say it is necessary for the cops to be woven into the social fabric of the community, not estranged from (or "above") the rest of us. This does NOT inherently mean that we excuse their misbehavior. It may very well mean that we insist that they be accountable to the rest of us.

What steps, if any, can be taken to make the Police Commission responsible to the broad swath of Kauai's people so there is an effective, community-friendly body with oversight of the police department?

Yes, a local cop might very well let their cousin off for drunken driving. But cops can also be good sources of information to activists when personal lines of communication are established. Having a "cousin on the force" can be might helpful in such situations.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, once the lege has spoken and the superferry comes here legally, if people try to block cars from coming onto Kauai the cops have to clear those people out of the way.

Anonymous said...

yeah - that's what happens when the elite ignore the people.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, when the elite ignore a minority of the people for the wishes of the majority of the people.

Anonymous said...

don't mistake yourself for "the people."

Anonymous said...

we the people in order to get along must open our hearts and mindz. it's not my way or the highway; it's what comes around goes around. be sovereign and treat others w/respect. be pono and others will respect your sovereignty. try help others to find their path to sovereignty; independance follows liberation. make love not war

Anonymous said...

Yah...and look both ways before crossing the street (at the sky and at your feet).

"We the people" elect officials and off-load responsibility to them. Don't like it? "Hire" (elect) new officials who will do things "your way" (if you can).

Still don't like it? Get out of Dodge.

Anonymous said...

What a dismal sacrifice of community power. It sounds like democracy is nothing more to you than pulling a lever in a voting booth every couple of years.

On the other hand, as they say in Latin America these days:"La verdadera democracia esta en las calles" ("True democracy is in the streets") and "Nuestros suenos no caben en sus urnas" ("Our dreams do not fit in your ballot boxes.")


Anonymous said...

I don't vote and my dreams have nothing to do with the continuing dismal state of things in this unchanging world.

I believe a change is coming, but not from any source discussed here. Until then, I'm using my resources to get by in relative isolation and insulation.

Nothing mankind can do will lead to any lasting solutions. Fortunately, it's not up to them in the long run.