Lockdowns divide residents at Kalihi public housing

by Dave Young and Tyler Nigut

Due to a recent bout of violence at the Kalihi Valley Homes in Honolulu, the state has imposed a mandatory curfew on the housing project’s residents. Not only are the projects in Kalihi affected by the curfew, but a similar rule will be imposed on the Kuhio Park Terrace housing projects, also located in Honolulu.

The whole debacle started when some cars in the Kalihi Valley Homes projects were vandalized. Tensions rose three weeks ago when a beating and a stabbing occurred on the premise. The final straw took place March 29 when one person was fatally shot in the face and ricocheting shotgun pellets injured others. Police suspect the shooting was in retaliation to a fight earlier in the week. The violence is due to a feud between two rival gangs in the projects, a problem that has existed for some time but has only recently escalated.

The curfew is now in full effect in the Kalihi Valley Homes (KVH) and will soon be in effect at the Kuhio Park Terrace (KPT). From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., residents must be in their units and all guests are required to leave by 10 p.m. or police will be called. Overnight passes may be granted for immediate family members in the event of an emergency. Also, residents who need to leave or enter the project after 10 p.m. due to their jobs must register with the office.

These rules may seem a bit strict, but Denise Wise, executive director of the Hawai’i Public Housing Authority, doesn’t think so. “People may consider it extreme. However, when there are lives involved, I don’t,” Wise told KHON2 in an interview. Wise is confident in the decision, saying, that if criticized, at least it won’t be because she didn’t take action.
Residents of the two projects are reacting differently. At KVH, residents are astounded at the level of noise within the project since the curfew: there is none. Taiaopo Tuimalealiifano, president of the Kalihi Valley Homes Residents Association, said, “All of Kalihi Valley was so quiet.” In fact, as the new curfew was being implemented, only one person ay KVH complained.

But residents in KPT do not want the curfew, saying it would interrupt their normal everyday lives and that the community is strong enough to come together and work with the police force to settle matters. Though KPT residents don’t seem to welcome the curfew, they don’t appear to have much choice in the state decision.

The legality of the curfew has been questioned. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the state-enforced curfew citing it as potentially unconstitutional as a form of house arrest all the residents. According to the state Human Services Department, the state attorney general has approved the curfew, citing a state law that allows agencies to make temporary rules without public hearing if they are required to protect public safety. Yet another loophole for the government to exploit the people’s rights.

There is an ethnic side to the curfew as well. The major ethnic group represented in the projects is Micronesians. Micronesians have been in Hawai’i for quite some time but have yet to ascend in the hierarchy of Hawaiian society. They have yet to earn the respect and trust like other ethnic groups that arrived before them, so a few negative stereotypes still plague this ethnic group.

The curfew may in fact inadvertently perpetuate some of these stereotypes and continue to portray the Micronesians in a negative light. By placing this curfew, the state is essentially saying that Micronesians are incapable of protecting themselves and problem solving at all. Not only are the projects state-run, but they are the lowest class housing on the islands (aside from the homeless on the Westside). This curfew is detrimental not only to the image of the Micronesian but to the self-esteem as well. “It’s almost like they don’t think we can handle the situation ourselves,” an anonymous source said, “It’s almost like they don’t respect us. They treat us like babies.” The curfew is set to take the violence down a level or two, but the fact remains that, helping or not, it still tarnishes Micronesians’ reputation.

Whether this curfew is the solution to the feud between the rival gangs is up in the air. Only time will tell if lines can be crossed and the gangs can work through their differences. As for now, the curfew is making things a little quieter in the projects, at least for the residents of the KVH.