Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The man with the dog; or, post-APEC ruminations

The man with the dog is not young or old, though his face is marked by dents, creases. Someone says he has a job washing dishes in Waikiki, but can't get there now that the APEC conference (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation: for details, see below) is in full bloom. His dog is small and furry, mottled black and white; she wears a plastic tag that marks her as a "service dog." He took her into a store at Kam Shopping Center and the security guy demanded (loudly) to know his disability. He's got a complaint lodged. The man with the dog lives in a tent on the sidewalk; he can't live in the park--that's illegal--so he lives beside the curb on King Street, inches from the traffic, precarious in so many ways. His tent is but one of many; there's a line of
them from near Isenberg back to the taco shop, a good 50 yards of tents, blankets, neat piles of possessions. A trash can reads, "Eat shit and die," but mostly one is struck by the civility of this encampment. A woman rakes trash and leaves in the park near her tent. Someone has left a blanket in the park's corner, just that side of the sidewalk.

We protested APEC at the corner of King and Isenberg. A large tarp covered the table covered written matter you could take away with you; in one corner a silkscreen was set up to make APEC SUCKS teeshirts (writing over pre-existing language, like Michigan State, like Coach Susan); in another corner a Vietnam vet sat on a chair, talking to a friend. The man with the dog spent a lot of time with us. His dog did not like loud noises, so when we left on our march to Waikiki, he left her in the tent.

HDoug (who is everywhere!) tweets the following:
Bill 54 if passed will create a bill that will allow police to remove attended personal property from the sidewalk. We heard Honolulu Police boasting that this will allow them to remove the Occupy Honolulu encampment (as well as other "troublesome" encampments such as the recent Kanawai Mamalahoe puuhonua). This is designed to abridge the rights of free speech and peaceable assembly, and violate the Law of the Splintered Paddle.

At the point a bill like this passes, homelessness will itself be a form of protest--not the undertone, the spatial lament it is now, but active. even in its staying in place. Subject to being thrown off the last sliver of ground they have left, the homeless will have become illegals, aliens, interlopers on the common areas of sidewalk, park, beach. Will they then move into the street?

The man with the dog (but without her) marched with us from Stadium Park into Waikiki on Saturday. I lost track of him early on. We were a thin line of several hundred souls, spirited, armed with cardboard signs, the best of which was probably the empty sign, with plastic window, a call for transparency. Earlier on, the policemen in blue had surrounded us, one of them with a video camera, shooting us as we gathered. Beside us now was a line of bicycle cops dressed in bright yellow. Among us were the omnipresent cops of the aloha shirt, who also sported straw hats to match. Hilo Hatties does good business with HPD, it seems. As we crossed the Ala Wai canal, we saw Coast Guardsmen encamped next to the water (the filthy water), their inflated dinghies at the ready.

On the other side of the canal, I spotted the President of UH, MRC Greenwood, walking toward, through, and then past our group. We made eye contact. And then we arrived at the real "security" force.

Around Fort DeRussy Park was a tall fence; the fence was filled in with dark material so you could not see what was in the park. An occasional break in the fence revealed more "security" on the other side. Along with our friends on their bikes, and our friends who looked like wacky tourists in their aloha shirts, we now encountered guardsmen in camouflage. Everyone had weapons. Military vehicles were parked here and there. There were concrete slabs around the guard posts, which were on the blocked-off street. The cops kept telling us to stay off the road and on the sidewalk. Occasionally, a dignitary in a suit would walk past on the road.

I had a point of reference for this display of armed force. It was Kathmandhu, Nepal in December 2004. We were there to adopt our daughter, Radhika, from Bal Mandir orphanage. Every street corner, it seemed, had a sentry post, and every sentry post was populated by soldiers with automatic weapons. Sangha, who was 5 at the time, loved seeing all the soldiers and waved to them as we rode past. "But Sangha, it's not a good sign when you're in a country where there are so many armed soldiers everywhere," I remember saying to him, hoping he'd remember those words when he was older.

I think of those words now. It's not a good sign when you are walking the streets of a city where you've worked for over 20 years and you see so many policemen, soldiers, humvees, guns, blockades. Whose security are we threatening? That's the question, whose answer is coming clear in the repeated attacks on Occupy (and here, de-Occupy) sites around the country. We are threatening someone's security. And there is perhaps some joy--and hope--in that. How much hope is yet to be seen.

This morning, we were told that H1 would be closed at 8:30 for Pres. Obama's motorcade. Bryant and Sangha were stopped at the end of H3 for one hour, beginning at 7:30 a.m. on the way to Sangha's school near Hickam AFB. More "security"--for whom and against whom, one wonders. Even if there were not reason to protest APEC (and there was), there is certainly reason to protest the near-imposition of martial law on a peaceful city during this past week.


The official website of APEC can be found here.

A take-down of APEC by Eating in Public can be found here.

The "we" of the demonstration was multifarious. There were the (De)Occupy folks, the World Can't Wait supporters, the Moana Nui group, and a large group of anti-Chinese, anti-communist Vietnamese with bright yellow and red flags. Also protesting against APEC this week were members of the Falun Gong, among others. And there were a lot of UHM faculty there.

1 comment:

H. Doug Matsuoka said...

Susan, Mahalo for posting this account of the APEC invasion. I was trying to visit various protests and places of interest to live tweet (@hdoug on Twitter) the events. I also gathered the photos later into albums at flicker.

The Kanawai Mamalahoe encampment:

Several of the encampment photos were grabbed by the Global Photojournalism; Politics, News, Protest, and Culture group on flickr.

Justice for Kollin Elderts (who was shot to death by an armed, off-duty APEC agent before APEC ceremonies even began):

Anti-APEC Rally of 11/12/11:

I don't think the URLs will become clickable in the comments section so you might have to copy them into your browser window to view. Or just go to user hdoug at flickr.com and view my sets.