2 more protesters arrested for furlough sit-in at Hawaii governor’s office

By Herbert A. Sample, AP
Thursday, April 15, 2010

2 more arrested at Hawaii furlough sit-in

HONOLULU — Two more people protesting Hawaii’s shortest-in-the-nation school year were arrested on trespassing charges Wednesday night during their weeklong sit-in at Gov. Linda Lingle’s office.

The protesters and supporters are angry about the stalemate over ending school furloughs, which have cut 17 days off the current school year, giving the state the shortest instructional calendar in the country. Another 17 furlough days are planned for the next school year.

State sheriff’s deputies made the arrests in the lobby of the governor’s office, where several parents and other adults have been camped, hoping to prod the governor into taking more action to end the furloughs.

Earlier in the day, Lingle and the parents fired verbal barbs at each other.

The demonstrators held their most well-attended news conference, with more than two dozen parents, their young children, politicians and other supporters filling Lingle’s office lobby.

Lingle told a radio audience that the parents, members of an informal group called Save Our Schools, do not speak for most parents.

“They don’t represent all parents,” the governor said. “They don’t represent the community. They’re self-appointed people. And I don’t meet with everyone who demands to have a meeting with me and especially people who have this kind of approach.”

Lingle added: “We’ve done our best … to treat them in a respectful way even though they are being completely disrespectful in their actions and their activities.”

At their news conference, the parents thanked the receptionists, sheriff’s deputies and other members of the governor’s staff for their kindness during the sit-in.

But they expressed exasperation with Lingle, accusing her of evading the effort to end furloughs.

“She unfortunately continues to play the victim, deflecting attention from the fact that the children of Hawaii have suffered the most from her lack of political will and continued political posturing,” said Joann Marshall, 39, whose has two young daughters.

“That comment that we are a small group is (meant to) discredit and discourage,” said Kessenich-Chase. “Of course we’re a small group. We’re trying to occupy an office overnight with no bathrooms. I don’t think thousands of people are going to come out wanting to do that.”

Arrested Wednesday night were Marguerite Higa, the parent of one young daughter, and Teresa Kessenich-Chase, a University of Hawaii graduate student, said Clare Hanusz, one of the sit-in participants. They had been issued misdemeanor trespassing citations twice before.

In addition, five other adults were issued their first or second trespassing citations, Hanusz said. On Tuesday, two other UH students who had joined the sit-in, were arrested.

More than a dozen other demonstrators have received at least one citation since the protest began a week ago.

The furloughs were approved by Lingle, the teachers union and school officials last year to help deal with a severe state budget shortfall. As a result, Hawaii students go to school four days in most weeks.

The two protesters who were arrested Tuesday night were immediately bailed out with funds the parents’ group has collected. Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz, who unsuccessfully sued the state to end the furloughs, said he would represent the two and others by, in part, challenging the constitutionality of the trespassing statute.

Lingle has offered a $62 million deal that would eliminate the remaining 21 furlough days by bringing back teachers, nurses, security guards and other essential workers.

But the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the state Board of Education have already inked another pact costing $92 million that would bring back all 23,000 education employees. The governor insists the still-strapped state can’t afford it and refuses to release that much money.

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