Free Speech Denied 25 Years Ago: Free Speech Trial

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 31 Jul 2023

Jim Albertini | Malu 'Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action – TRANSCEND Media Service

Big Island, Hawaii’s History: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, 1998

(Big Island History was compiled by Brandon Haleamau for the Tribune-Herald using newspaper archives. Whenever possible, the news accounts were taken verbatim from the newspaper.)

Jim Albertini had a BIG check ready to pay his court fine on Monday. Big, as in size, that is.

But a District Court judge wasn’t amused with Albertini’s offer of legal tender and threatened to find Albertini in contempt if the anti-nuclear activist persisted in using the “rather oversized check.”

“I’ve got to write a regular check,” Albertini conceded after court.

Albertini was one of eight anti-nuclear activists who were convicted of simple trespass, a violation with no jail time, for passing out leaflets and demonstrating at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in 1995.

District Judge Jeffrey Choi in March 1997 sentenced Albertini, James Kimo Pihana, Ole Fulks, Viviane Lerner, Lucien Noe, Dorothy Silva, Eugene Fulks, and Mara Stevens.

They were fined either $50 or $100, depending on whether they had a previous trespass conviction.

Some of the fines were converted into community service. But Choi did not immediately implement the sentences pending the outcome of an appeal.

The state Intermediate Court of Appeals on April 30 upheld the trespass convictions. Last month, the state Supreme Court declined to step in. On Monday, most of the protesters appeared before Choi so their sentences could be carried out.

Albertini presented Choi with an estimated 5-foot-by-8-foot check made out to the District Court for the amount of $100. At the top of the check was written, “free speech denied” and in the memo section of the check was written, “no lie can live forever.”

Albertini said he disagreed with the final decision in a case.

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28 Jul 2023Jim Albertini’s Follow-up Commentary

This was about leafleting outside “LIBERTY HOUSE” and other entrances at Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo against French Nuclear testing in the Pacific urging a boycott of French products listed on the leaflet. People entering were very receptive.  Few supported French nuclear testing in the Pacific at Tahiti.   I chose “Liberty House” as a symbol of Free Speech.  Hawaii didn’t have a test case if shopping centers were the modern-day “Village Square” of free speech.  We chose to stand outside the mall entrances (between the parking lot and the mall), not inside the mall itself, to hand out leaflets.  In Hawaii, you now have to stand outside the Mall “moat of capitalism” (the parking lot) on the sidewalks along the streets, where it is dangerous to try to pass out a leaflet to entering vehicles.  Much safer to let people park and offer leaflets to people as they enter the mall.  Some states even allow leaflet distribution inside mall corridors.

I checked with my bank ahead of time and they confirmed the check was legal.  I don’t recall having to write a regular check.  I wanted to refuse to pay the $100 fine in principle, but I didn’t have my farm covered, so I had to come up with a creative idea (Publishers Clearinghouse style) to pay the fine.

Judge Choi was a right-winger.  He drove a pickup truck with a US Naval Academy bumper sticker on it.  At least 5 of the 8 free-speech fellow protesters are now dead.  May they rest in peace.

Chris Yuen was our volunteer attorney.  He did a great job trying to defend our First Amendment rights of free speech. After the case, I asked him what we could have done better.  He said, Not much  — perhaps if the leaflet we were handing out was about pay raises for judges!

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Jim Albertini is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, a former Catholic School teacher, and long-time social justice activist since the US war on Vietnam. He has done research on the use of depleted uranium at Pohakuloa Military Training Area and is the author of “The Dark Side of Paradise: Hawai’i in a Nuclear World.” Jim is the founder and director of Malu ‘Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action, a spiritual community based on peace, justice and sustainable organic farming on Big Island, Hawai’i – P.O. Box 489 Ola’a (Kurtistown), Hawai’i 96760. Phone (+ 808) 966-7622 Email: ja@malu-aina.org – website: malu-aina.org

Go to Original – malu-aina.org


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