HILO, Hawaii – Joe Pierce, the man behind the Cop Watch Hawaii YouTube channel, testified before the Hawaii County Council on Wednesday, where he described his arrest during the January 2 “Freedom Ride” in Hilo.
Pierce was one of three arrested (“kidnapped”, as Freedom Ride participants say) following a rally held at the King Kamehameha Statue on Saturday morning.
Freedom Ride organizers say participants were lawfully demonstrating their ‘right to travel’ without the encumbrance of State property license plates “falsely designating your car as State property, making you liable”, they say.
“Your automobile/car is your PRIVATE Property,” a pre-event press release stated , “your basic ‘right to travel’ is a fundamental right, not regulated nor restricted unless you cause damage/harm/injury/loss.”
Before the Freedom Ride took place, police warned that they will “enforce all traffic laws over holiday weekend, as always.”
“The public is reminded that a driver’s license, registration, license plates, registration and safety sticker are required to operate a motor vehicle on public roads,” police wrote in a media release. “Erroneous information has been disseminated claiming that these requirements violate the Constitutional ‘right to travel.’ That is not accurate. The right to travel protects a citizen’s right to freely travel to other states and does not provide a fundamental right to operate a motor vehicle. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that states have the power to regulate the use of motor vehicles on their roadways.”
Freedom Ride supporters also cite the Supreme Court, saying the decision (Murdoc vs. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105) grants them the right to travel by “private conveyance for private purposes upon the common way” and that “No license or permission is required for travel when such travel is not for the purpose of (commercial) profit or gain.”
They say the Supreme Court decision declares the State is “forbidden by law from converting a basic right into a privilege and requiring a license and or fee charged for the exercise of a basic right.”
Drivers participating in the Freedom Ride affixed cardboard plates to their vehicles reading “Not For Hire.” For this reason, patrol officers stopped three vehicles on Punahoa Street for obstruction of license plates.
39-year-old Pierce was not driving one of the stopped cars, but was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for, as police say, “yelling in the street while officers were conducting the traffic stops.” Pierce says his first amendment rights were infringed as he was merely making political speech.
Pierce filmed some of the incident and uploaded to his YouTube channel.
Big Island Video News will have more on this story.