Tensions escalated in wind farm protest Thursday night, 26 arrested

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The first of eight wind turbines was completed on Thursday for the Na Pua Makani wind farm.

That same day, Kahuku demonstrators put out a call for people to join in their opposition and hundreds of people showed up to Kalaeloa, where the equipment is stored, and things escalated quickly.

The night started peacefully but quickly turned into people screaming, pushing and being arrested.

“They start to push on us and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh they’re really going to push on us,’ There are so many people behind us and all the keiki are in the back so there’s nowhere for us to go,” explained Kahuku resident Neva Fotu.

HPD said they gave multiple warnings for protestors to vacate the roadway.

Police said about 200 protestors left the road.  Then, according to police, arrests began.

In a statement, HPD said: “Over the next two hours, the 23 individuals who remained in the roadway were arrested for disobeying a police officer.  One of the protesters was also arrested for resisting arrest, and another for an outstanding warrant.”

“After the 23 persons were arrested, HPD officers instructed the crowd several times to move behind the yellow police tape.  This is for the public’s safety, as the bicycle officers actually stand in front of the yellow tape and use their bodies and the bicycles as physical barriers to protect the crowd from being pushed into the road as the trucks and heavy equipment drive by.”

Around 1 a.m., police began making arrests and videos started to go viral across social media.

“Last night there was a very different energy,” said Hauula resident Isaiah Walker, who opposes the Na Pua Makani wind project. “All of a sudden I saw them arrest the first person, and usually they’re very kind and they talk to you nicely, but there were a few officers that started to get really aggressive and started swearing.”

He described the last 33 days of peaceful protests as cordial with police.

“Part of Kapu Aloha is we want to be calm and not swear so I noted the swearing and he [the officer] looked at me and just channeled his energy toward me while I’m sitting on the ground,” Walker said.

“It was a very different feeling from other nights where I almost like he wanted to fight with me and I had to talk with another police officer and say, ‘I don’t want this officer arresting me because he’s obviously very angered,” he said.

He said it all escalated quickly and that the energy went from “real positive and peaceful to real tense.”

“A lot of it was because they started grabbing people from the crowd and throwing them on the ground, claiming that the police were being harassed which I don’t really understand,” Walker said.

The social media videos and the police misconduct allegations prompted HPD to hold a press conference late Friday afternoon.

“Last night we had rocks thrown at solo bike officers. One was punched on the side of the head and we don’t know who did it,” said Assistant Police Chief John McCarthy.

He said the crowd did not obey police commands to move back.

“Our officers have had to tolerate taunting, threatening actions on part of these protestors who use terms like Kapu Aloha which is nothing more than words. They’re not exercising anything like that,” McCarthy said.

“We respect their right to protect but there’s an issue of public safety and law enforcement. We’re here to do a job, we’re not taking any sides of either the corporation or the protestors.”

Over the past several weeks, HPD has released their own videos discrediting allegations made by demonstrators. This time they did not release any video.

In all, 26 protestors were arrested. Twenty-one for disobeying a police officer, one was arrested for disobedience and resisting arrest, one was arrested for disobedience and a warrant, and three were arrested for harassment on a police officer. 

Police say bail ranged from $100 to $1,000. 

Some demonstrators say they’ve lost a sense of trust in police.

“I think we looked at the officers and we expected them to stand for our kids too and I don’t know what to expect from them anymore, I don’t know if calling 911 is the right thing for me anymore,” said Fotu.

“What we saw last night was aloha out the door and quite frankly has us worried about where our law enforcement stands,” said Nakia Nae’ole, Kahuku resident.

Demonstrators said they’ll continue to peacefully protest in Kalaeloa and Kahuku against the wind turbine project.

“We want more people to show up,” said Fotu. “Waianae, oh Waianae, they’ve done so much for us and I never thought they would stand strong with us like this, they are standing for my kids,” she said crying.

Anyone with evidence of officer misconduct or unprofessional behavior is encouraged to file a report with the Honolulu Police Commission or the HPD Professional Standards Office so that the allegations can be investigated.

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