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Police handed a tough situation

By Staff | Oct 29, 2009

The “Coconut Wireless” is humming over Halloween in Lahaina. One of Maui’s classic events is now a big question mark.

How many people will show up if there is no Great Halloween Costume Contest in Banyan Tree Park, food booths to raise money for community associations and stages for bands to entertain crowds?

Seeing small crowds after the keiki parade last year, police opened Front Street to motorists.

The revelers that eventually showed up were constantly herded onto crowded sidewalks as cars and bikers paraded by, and the whole scenario just felt stupid.

One broadcast e-mail stated, “It’s dangerous with that many people coming to Lahaina trying to walk the sidewalks with open traffic!!! Think how narrow some of the sidewalks are in Lahaina. There is no way they can hold that kind of foot traffic…”

“I would suggest ‘mass nonviolent civil disobedience’ in Lahaina Halloween night. If EVERYONE attending the celebration were to go into the street en masse at a given time, say 8 p.m., the police would be at a loss to do anything about it. Would they resort to clubbing offenders or using tear gas? Methinks not,” a Wailuku man wrote.

Is this fair to the police?

The popular Halloween activities are gone, and the street might be open after the keiki parade around 6 p.m., because LahainaTown Action Committee didn’t apply for an event permit before the Cultural Resources Commission this year.

Citing concerns about allowing the growing event in Lahaina — a place rich in Hawaiian culture and history — commissioners shot LAC down in 2008.

According to an LAC leader, the group was told “not to bother” applying this year.

The county viewpoint is a cop out — it can’t override the CRC, a citizens’ panel. The administration clearly doesn’t grasp what the event means in terms of tourism, promoting Maui and supporting West Maui’s business community.

Instead of standing back and dumping the event on the police, the county could bring LahainaTown Action Committee and residents together to iron out concerns.

The event is on regardless of who is in charge. After decades of celebrations in Lahaina Town, you can expect thousands of people to show up.

Do you want an organized event or a free-for-all?