ACLU: Maui rules violate free speech

Hawaii Independent Staff

Honolulu, HI - The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of the ACLUʻs members and Maui plaintiffs Chuck Carletta and Mele Stokesberry. The suit, against the County of Maui, seeks immediate changes to County laws that prohibit people from displaying signs on sidewalks and along roadways.

At issue is Maui County Code section 12.42.030, which prohibits sign-waving within 50 feet of any traffic control signal, twenty feet of a pedestrian crosswalk, or six feet from the edge of the pavement or other surface of the highway. 

In January 2013, the County threatened to enforce this ordinance against a group of demonstrators during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. This is from a January 2013 MauiTime report by Anthony Pignataro:

At first, I didn’t believe the Jan. 9 email from the African Americans on Maui Association:

“We need to alert all Parade Participants per the Maui Police Department: It is a County Ordinance that no one is allowed to carry signs, but may carry photos of Dr. King or banners of their organizations. Please be advised that the Maui Police Department will issue tickets should anyone carry signage.”


The ACLU contends that this treatment is applied unequally. From their press statement:

“At the same time, however, the Countyʻs own police officers violate these laws by regularly holding demonstrations about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving; indeed, just a few months before threatening to enforce the ordinance against the Plaintiffs and other protesters, Maui Police Department officers had engaged in sign-waving with children and adults along busy Maui roads.”

The ACLU contacted Maui County to amend the ordinance. The County refused, leading to todayʻs lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Maui County said that they had not yet been served the lawsuit; this post will be updated with their statement when it’s available.