Street performers take concerns to neighborhood board

Sergeant Dave Barnett
Sergeant Dave Barnett

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) – Waikiki street performers, worried they will be arrested and kept off sidewalks during the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference in November took their concerns to the Waikiki Neighborhood Board Tuesday.

The neighborhood board did not have the topic on its agenda. It was not voting on any resolutions related to street performers. But it did give performers a venue to ask a representative of the Honolulu Police Department about its plans for November and about its policies concerning street performers.

Sergeant Dave Barnett told the street performers their first amendment rights will be honored and he explained the difference between being paid to perform, which he said is illegal on the sidewalk, and performing for pay, which he said is legal.

"If you are not doing anything, you are just standing there, not doing anything and I come by and I throw money into your bucket, and then you perform, that can fall into the peddling ordnance (illegal). OK, if you are performing and you are just doing your thing out there and somebody comes by and throws a dollar or 20 bucks or whatever into your bucket while you are performing, that is ... you are performing for pay. You are not being paid to perform. And that's legal. The second one is legal," Barnett said.

Performers were hoping to get an assurance they will not be targeted during APEC. Barnett did not give them that assurance. He said in the past police have performed undercover operations targeting street performers who are breaking the law and promised there will be more of those undercover operations.

"However, as far as this being an APEC thing or anything like that, it is not. I've been doing this, we've been doing this for at least a couple of years now, Okay, and I have gone out myself on operations where we've worked undercover and we've made arrests for this and we will continue to do this after APEC is over. It's not anything new," Barnett said.

Rick Egged, president of the Waikiki Improvement Association, told the performers there would encounter a lot less friction if they kept sidewalks clear and stopped making loud noise at 10 pm. Egged said the association recognizes the performers first amendment right to be on the sidewalk and express themselves.

Troy Fernandez, who has won Na Hoku Hanohano awards as a member of the Kaau Crater Boys, performs on the street in Waikiki as many as three times a week. He said it would be nice if police targeted the "real criminals" instead of going after street performers.

"For the past five years we've been doing street performances. I see the same drug dealers right next to me and you know, I thought they was going to be the target. But somehow we're the target. It's throwing me off," Fernandez said.

APEC leaders meet in Honolulu November 12 and 13, 2011.

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