Operation Sidewalk Sweeper

A few weeks ago, we featured one of Waikiki’s most popular nighttime street performances – the Silver Men. The group is one of many acts that use the sidewalks as a makeshift stage, wowing spectators for over a decade. The city plans to draw the curtain over all sidewalk performances through an initiative called Operation Sidewalk Sweeper.

Waikiki performers include artists and balloon makers, who may soon lose their sidewalk stage.

The effort will “sweep up” the homeless, street artists and street performers along Kalakaua Avenue in preparation for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). That’s when important world leaders – including President Barack Obama – will be in town. The city and police officers hope to keep this effort going even after APEC has ended with officers continuing to cite and arrest violators.

Every night, crowds of people fill the sidewalks and often spill on to the street. Some neighboring shops complain that the sidewalk shows distract potential patrons and block their store entrances. The performers disagree, claiming that their right to freedom of expression and being on public sidewalks protect them from the law. They formed a group called Save Waikiki Sidewalk in support of artists, church members, nonprofits and cause-advocates who rely on the public sidewalk for free speech.

Musicians like Blaze have become a regular sighting in Waikiki.

I can’t imagine Waikiki without the colorful acts that have painted part of Hawaii’s nightlife for more than a decade. They have become an integral part of the community that celebrates persity among our people and shares some of our modern-day culture on the main strip of Waikiki. As the melting pot of the Pacific, Hawaii prides itself on being open-minded to issues like this. Why dismiss it and censor such popular productions that many associate with Hawaii? When the performers go, so will the large crowds – leaving behind an empty avenue with now even emptier businesses. It will be as if a part of Waikiki died. Hopefully performers are teaming up to plan their biggest and most important act of saving Waikiki sidewalks because the show must go on!

Photo Credit: Michael Daly, Save Waikiki Sidewalk