Hawaii County police this week read longtime peace activist Jim Albertini his rights prior to questioning him about a disorderly conduct complaint filed by a Hilo charter school.
The complaint was made by the principal and secretary of Connections Public Charter School, who reportedly were “alarmed” by a telephone call last week from Albertini, according to Albertini’s account of what he was told during questioning by the police.
Albertini first learned of the complaint on Monday, when he was contacted by a Hilo Police Officer C. Sugimoto. He voluntarily appeared at the Hilo Police Station the following day for questioning.
“Officer Sugimoto first read me my rights and I signed a consent form to be questioned. Officer Sugimoto then told me that I was being investigated on a possible “Disorderly Conduct” complaint filed by Connections Public Charter School (PCS) Principal John Thatcher and the school secretary, Candy Alverado,” Albertini later reported.
The complaint was apparently prompted by Albertini’s telephone call to the school last Friday, during which he requested the email addresses of teachers who took their students to an April 20, 2017 Earth Day event at the Pohakuloa Training Area, a public relations event sponsored by the U.S. Army.
Albertini and others have been calling public attention to the potential hazards posed by the previous us of depleted uranium during military training at Pohakuloa going back to the 1960s. They contend that conventional radiation monitoring does not adequately protect the public from the health effects of potential inhalation of microscopic particles in dust or smoke created by weapons training during military maneuvers.
Albertini said he spoke with Alvarado during his call to the school last week, “and explained his concern to get information to teachers and parents of students about the dangers of inhaling Depleted Uranium (DU) oxide dust particles possibly being dispersed by heavy artillery live fire which was taking place at Pohakuloa on April 20th.”
“Ms. Alverado was very pleasant and gave me the email addresses of two teachers plus the bus driver who went to Pohakuloa Earth Day events,” Albertini said.
According to state law:
§711-1101 Disorderly conduct. (1) A person commits the offense of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause physical inconvenience or alarm by a member or members of the public, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, the person:
(a) Engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior; or
(b) Makes unreasonable noise; or
(c) Subjects another person to offensively coarse behavior or abusive language which is likely to provoke a violent response; or
(d) Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which is not performed under any authorized license or permit; or
(e) Impedes or obstructs, for the purpose of begging or soliciting alms, any person in any public place or in any place open to the public.
It’s difficult to see that Albertini’s contact with the school secretary by phone, or subsequent email addressed to others, could possibly be construed as disorderly conduct as defined by law.
A Hawaii Supreme Court decision in February 2017 narrowed the application of the law.
In that decision, the court ruled disorderly conduct “is limited to conduct which is itself disorderly,” and “the offense requires that the defendant engaged in fighting, threatening, or violent or tumultuous behavior.”
Clearly, Albertini’s conduct included nothing of that sort. So why did the police take action on the school’s complaint in a manner that appears aimed at discouraging free speech and open discussion of a controversial but important matter? The police department should be held to account on this.