Hawaii A.G. responds to online rumors of violence at planned weekend protests

Hawaii A.G. responds to online rumors of violence at planned weekend protests
Several Black Lives Matter protests have taken place in Hawaii in recent days. (Source: Hawaii News Now/file)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Protests aimed to spread the Black Lives Matter message are expected to take place on Oahu over the weekend, in solidarity with other demonstrations which have gripped the country for most of the past two weeks.

At around noon on Friday, demonstrators took part in a walk from Ala Moana Beach Park to the Duke Kahanamoku statue in Waikiki. Authorities said around 450 people participated in the march.

And on Saturday, protesters planned to return to Ala Moana Beach Park at noon for another rally.

The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer was seen in video pressing his knee against the back of Floyd’s neck.

Several protests have already taken place in Hawaii in recent days, remaining largely peaceful.

But social media posts in recent days have claimed that violent characters were being flown in to start trouble at weekend protests, and the rumors have become pervasive enough that state law enforcement officials responded to them on Friday.

“While social media can be helpful in distributing information broadly, everyone knows there are countless examples of where social media platforms have spread misinformation through false postings," said Clare Connors, the state’s Attorney General. "We encourage readers and viewers to be discerning, to rely only on official sources of information and to avoid getting caught up in the dissemination of rumors and/or gossip online.”

In a statement of their own, the Honolulu Police Department acknowledged the social media postings and also debunked rumors that a hospital on Oahu was being told to prepare for a large number of injured protesters.

“This rumor is false,” the department said.

Still, the possibility that local protests could turn as destructive as some of the demonstrations seen on the mainland ― something law enforcement sources have said they do not expect to happen ― prompted some Waikiki businesses to take protective measures on Friday.

Some stores at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center have begun boarding up windows, and multiple luxury retailers along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki were also seen taking action to prevent vandalism.

Honolulu police officials say they’re hopeful that weekend protests will resemble those that have already taken place peacefully across the state.

“Mahalo to everyone who has participated in the rallies and marches and peacefully exercised their right to free speech,” a police spokesperson said. “Officers will continue to be present at all events to protect everyone’s safety and constitutional rights.”

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