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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Next stop for some: Honolulu Hale

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Homeless people from Ala Moana Beach Park who were camping on the Honolulu Hale grounds last night were told to move to the sidewalk. Earlier, about 30 protesters locked arms near the Honolulu Hale fountain as they saw police officers approaching.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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A group of homeless people left Ala Moana Beach Park last night after city officials set a 10 p.m. deadline to empty the park. Less than a dozen remained in the park late last night, said homeless advocate Eileen Joyce, but she didnít know their fate.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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City spokesman Bill Brennan, left, discusses the situation with concerned citizen Roger Wickenden in front of City Hall.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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For at least one night, many of the homeless people who were evicted from Ala Moana Beach Park last night made the sidewalk in front of Honolulu Hale their home.

About 50 people set up lawn chairs, sleeping bags, mats and even a couple of tents near the corner of King and Punchbowl streets to protest the city's plan to close the park, where an estimated 200 homeless people had been living.

Police arrested four people early this morning. The one man and three women were booked for trespassing after they refused to leave the Honolulu Hale grounds.

The encampment followed a march by about 100 homeless people and supporters, many of them clergy, from Ala Moana Beach Park to city hall as a 10 p.m. deadline to vacate the park approached.

"We're not going to leave this place until they come up with a plan for you folks," Utu Langi, an outreach worker who founded H5 ó Hawai'i Helping the Hungry Have Hope ó told the gathering at Honolulu Hale.

Langi said they hope that in the morning, a small group will be allowed to meet with Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

The city announced Friday that those who have been living in the beach park would be evicted between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. daily for a month beginning last night as the city prepares to renovate the park April 25 to 27. The park will be closed all day on those three days.

The protesters at first set up camp on the lawn of city hall. As about a dozen police officers approached, 30 or so protesters locked arms near the Honolulu Hale fountain.

Police told them they had to vacate the lawn but would be allowed to stay on the sidewalk. The group complied. However, at 12:15 a.m. police issued citations to a half-dozen people who went back to the fountain and arrested a man and three women after they refused to leave.

Earlier, as the 10 p.m. deadline to vacate the park passed, less than a dozen homeless people remained at Ala Moana Beach Park, said homeless advocate Eileen Joyce. Joyce said she made a last-minute sweep of the park, but did not know what happened to anyone who remained in the park.

Another man said it appeared that many people had packed up earlier that day and left.

"It's a sad night tonight for a lot of people," Joyce said. "I'm sorry we couldn't have acted sooner."

There was no apparent police activity at the park just after 10 p.m.

City spokesman Bill Brennan met with some of the organizers of the march. He told them the city respects their right to protest but that the city will not condone illegal activity. Brennan said it would up to police whether the campers would be allowed to stay overnight on the city hall grounds.

Josephine Keliikipi was one of the homeless people who took part in last night's march. She had lived in the park since 1996. She said she didn't know where she will be after last night and that she went to city hall to find out what the city plans to do with the homeless problem.

"I want to see what Mufi's going to do," she said. "I want to find out why he's doing this."

Marie Beltran and her husband, John Keawemahili, homeless people from Moku-le'ia, joined the protest. "We know what it feels like to be evicted," Beltran said. "This doesn't have to happen. They say they have compassion and love in the hearts for the people. Then show it."

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.