The Honolulu Police Department (HPD) took to social media to issue a statement warning motorists they would crackdown on vehicles displaying large flags and banners, with fines ranging from $70-$97. Local community members described this crackdown as being suppressive, especially considering recent social movements going on within the state.
“In our community, Kahuku flags and Polynesian island flags are everywhere. For our community, flags represent so much more than a high school or an island. Flags represent principles and beliefs we pride ourselves in,” shared Tyrone Brown, a junior from Kahuku majoring in social work.
According to KITV, the Honolulu Police Department is reminding motorists, according to the law, a driver's view is to be unobstructed and 'no object should extend beyond the widest part of a vehicle.'
An expression of pride
“Displaying flags shows what we want the world to recognize about us and what we hope to stand for. Flying flags, especially Hawaiian state flags, is nothing new. I feel this crackdown is aimed at keeping the Hawaiian cultural excitement down,” Brown said.
Celina Hontanosas, a BYU–Hawaii alumna and resident of Kahuku, said the recent crackdown is interesting because it is happening at the same time as the Mauna Kea movement and other community issues where there’s been a lot of representation of the Hawaiian flag and Kanaka Maoli flag recently.
“I feel like this is their way to try and suppress and silence the people’s voices. Why is the state cracking down and issuing statements on flags when there are more important things to be worrying about in the state?”
Echoing Brown’s remarks, Hontanosas said people have been flying their flags on the back of their trucks for years, but only now they are starting to see it as a hazard.
“Before the whole Mauna Kea movement even started, people were flying a lot of flags on their trucks. The most common I would see are the Tongan flag, the Hawaiian flag and the Kahuku Red Raider flag.”
Hontanosas explained people fly their flags for pride and awareness. Anytime somebody displays their flag or culture, it’s to show they are proud of who they are. It’s the same reason people fly the flag of their sports team, because they are proud of them. And that’s why Hawaiians fly their flags because they are proud of being Hawaiian.”
In light of recent community movements such as Mauna Kea and Ku Kia’i Kahuku, Hontanosas shared, “Especially recently with people flying their flags on their trucks is to show they are proud as a people, proud to be Hawaiian and they are proud to stand up for what they believe in. Flag flying is a form of expression.”
“You never hear about any accidents due to flags. It seems like something small to fine people for flag flying, but there are implications. You take away and silence the pride and dignity of the people and that's how oppression starts and leads on to more,” Hontanosas said.
Brown said although he wished HPD was doing this for public safety, he cannot see the crackdown as being helpful. “I wish I could say I believe HPD is doing this for public safety, but I can’t. I believe our current state leaders are self-serving. There are bigger issues to deal with… homelessness, car thefts, drug dealers and more.”
Hontanosas said the problem is not solely with law enforcement. “Our law enforcement is seen as the problem, but it’s really not them. It’s the people who are giving them the orders, which are the state and government officials.”
Hontanosas said if she's learned anything from recent community movements and actions of the state, its importance of education. “When it comes down to it, the most effective thing we can do is to take our education seriously and use it to benefit those around us in the future.”