City tackles challenge of clearing tents from public sidewalks

City tackles challenge of clearing tents from public sidewalks

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Under current city law, no one is allowed to store their private property on public property.  For example, the tents that line the sidewalk along Thomas Square, where Occupy Honolulu protestors took up residence in November of 2011. Right now, the city is required to tag belongings and give owners 24 hours to remove them before they can be legally seized and stored— but city council bill 7 would eliminate that notice requirement.

"That would irreparably harm a lot of people -- when you take people's things and leave them with nothing.  They already feel beaten down and trodden upon," said D'Angelo McIntyre, a protestor who has been camping out with Occupy Honolulu.  "That's not helping them.  That's getting rid of the problem for you, not for them, and that's wrong."

The "public sidewalk nuisance" situation, as city officials refer to it, isn't just an issue with Occupy Honolulu at Thomas Square.  Along South King Street in front of Sanders Piano, employees say every night – 30 to 40 people – are camped just outside their doorstep.  Employees say they're gone in the morning, but it's what they leave behind.

"We've had during the day people go down our back outside stairway to get to their lessons and somebody has defecated at the bottom of the stairs," described Gregory Smith, a Sanders Piano employee. "We've had mothers and fathers of piano students who have quit because they won't come back in this environment," Smith explained.  "It's been a nightmare, it's gotten worse."

Duane "Ku" Souza lives in Pa'awa In-Ha Park during the day. At night, he moves his family and their belongings into the Sanders Piano parking lot.  The thought of losing the current 24 hour notice police provide to clear out frustrates him.

"I tell you what, it's going be one beef if someone comes and touch my things.  Same as anybody else," said Souza.  "As a Hawaiian, I know I have a traditional and customary right to do what I'm doing."

Unless city or state law changes, officials say there's nothing they can do as long as the tents and other belongings along the sidewalks provide a minimum of 36 inches of passing space in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Follow Mileka Lincoln on Facebook: or on Twitter:

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.