The dismissal of criminal charges against topless protestors Jamie and Tess Meier shows the need for improved police training in advance of expected protests at the APEC conference next month, the ACLU said today.
The Meiers were charged with petty misdemeanors by Honolulu police in August when they demonstrated bare-chested last month as part of a gender equity protest.
The were cited for protesting without a permit along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki.
City prosecutors dismissed the charges last week after the ACLU and a private lawfirm took up the case and argued the citations violated constitutional freedom of speech protections.
“It is clear that (HPD) officers have not been adequately trained to protect and respect the First Amendment,” ACLU lawyer Laurie Templeton said in a news release today.
She said city lawyers will be asked “to conduct thorough training about the law” of HPD officers before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference begins here in November.
The arrest of the Meiers shows more training is needed “ensure that HPD does not violate the rights of protesters during that event,” the news release said
Captain Andrew Lum of HPD said the department “respects the right to legally demonstrate, and we make no distinction as to the purpose, message or intent of any group exercising this right.”
“While we expect (APEC) protests to be peaceful, the department must be prepared for all situations,” Lum said.
“As a law enforcement agency, it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone’s safety and rights are protected,” Lum continued.
“This applies to protestors and members of the public alike,” he said.