Justice for Iremamber Sykap Means Abolishing HPD

Iremamber Sykap

One year ago, 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap was shot and killed by three HPD officers. In August, Honolulu District Court Judge William Domingo found no probable cause that the HPD cops who shot and killed Iremamber Sykap did so. The ruling was shocking and unexpected to anyone who watched the horrific bodycam videos of the murder, but I anticipated that as usual, the legal system wouldn’t do justice for any person involved in any type of violence and/or harm. I’ve written and shared the same words over and over again after reading about barbaric executions by cops because my views remain the same. I believe that the legal system does no justice for anyone and cops will always get away with murder. Iremamber Sykap is dead, his siblings lost their brother, the Micronesian community is continuously harmed and harassed by locals and especially our kānaka maoli relatives, and HPD receives even more support from Hawaiians. I feel embarrassed that my lāhui is so violently anti-Micronesian and pro-police when our community isn’t affected, I feel devastated for the Sykap ʻohana who has already been through more grief and suffering than any group of young people should have to, and I feel relentless hatred toward every single person who’s used their one wild and precious life to become a cop. Last year I wrote the following post about how angry I am that people in Hawaiʻi and particularly native Hawaiians love cops so much. I think the post is still relevant as it captures part of Iremamber’s case and allows me to spill my thoughts on his murder. And of course, should Judge Domingo have ruled alternatively, my feelings would remain the same. Cops are absolute liabilities in prison and they only put Black and Brown people in more danger inside. I do not believe anyone should ever fill cells in jails and prisons and that even includes monsters like the three who took Iremamber’s short life. Abolishing the institution of policing is the only way to ensure that kids like Iremamber are allowed to live long and full lives and that we never have to prematurely bury our community members because cops want to assault and kill as they please. Anyhow, please intentionally read the following words as I hope they make people recognize their anti-Micronesian and anti-Black racism and take away the seemingly neverending support for HPD that many still have.

“There are few places where locals love their police force on the same level as people do here in Hawaiʻi. Of course everywhere in and associated with the US there are factions of police supporters, but there’s a specifically overwhelming omnipresence of Hawaiʻi’s love for the Honolulu Police Department and its adjacent agencies. Many would think Hawaiʻi residents and kānaka maoli in particular should have negative attitudes toward policing of any kind as HPD has been a terrorizing force since its establishment on our islands (remember the 1985 evictions and arrests of houseless kānaka maoli including legendary Hawaiian singer Paula Fuga as a child?), but the opposite is true. Hawaiʻi’s love for policing is exceptional and explained mostly by our close relationships to family and community. People in Hawaiʻi whether kānaka or not are often driven by a love for and support of family. Because everyone knows and is related to each other (by blood, marriage, hānai, or calabash) here, most families and/or friend groups have at least one HPD officer. There’s also the belief here that Hawaiʻi cops are different from those in the US and that we don’t have the same inherent racism and corruption and injustice in regard to policing. Hawaiʻi’s government is possibly one of the most nefarious anywhere and local politicians, executives, and leaders are impossible to remove from their powerful positions. HPD is a dominant entity with SHOPO or the State of Hawaiʻi Organization of Police Officers (Hawaiʻi state police union) having a dynamic hold on so much of the populace. There is no consistency with Hawaiʻi’s love for HPD though, which is evident upon comparing the mass reactions to HPD arresting kupuna and other kiaʻi on Mauna Kea (read about them here and here), in Waimanalo (seen here), and in Kahuku (and here) and the “Back the Blue” rallies in support of the cops on multiple occasions, but most recently after they killed Lindani Myeni and Iremamber “Baby” Sykap at separate times. It’s unsurprising to witness such harrowing support for HPD when victims of the department’s violent existence are Black and Micronesian as opposed to hostility and resistance when they’re native Hawaiian.

HPD murdered 16-year-old Iremamber “Baby” Sykap—a Micronesian boy from Kalihi—by shooting him three times in the back and once in the back of his head (documented here), footage of which HPD also tried to block from release. Iremamber and his five friends including three other teenagers were allegedly driving in a stolen car on April 5 when upon pursuit by HPD, the car was shot at 10 times. Iremamber and the other children were all Micronesian and the news of his killing and the HPD chase opened the floodgates to horrific anti-Micronesian comments and attacks. Iremamber’s alleged previous involvement in the legal system also caused hateful locals and Hawaiians in particular to celebrate HPD’s actions that day. Hawaiians and other Hawaiʻi residents have always been extremely racist toward Micronesians since the US military bombed the different small islands while promising COFA (Compact of Free Association) citizens they’d have healthcare, education, housing, and jobs in America. The military literally made parts of the Micronesian islands unlivable from the bomb radiation and lied to the COFA people about what they’d receive in return, sending them to Hawaiʻi and parts of the US without access to any of the free resources they were guaranteed. And since Micronesian folks were sent to our islands, they’ve been discriminated against by basically every group of people in particularly malicious ways. A grand jury declined to indict the three cops—Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee, and Christopher Fredeluces—so shortly after, the Honolulu City Prosecutor charged all three with one count of second-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, and one count of second-degree attempted murder, respectively. This morning ahead of a hearing for the cops, over 100 people gathered in support of the killers and HPD as a whole, as shown in the KITV4 video above. Of course if HPD shot a kanaka child in the back of their head and killed them it would be a different story to all of the Hawaiians rallying, but because Iremamber was Micronesian, the public narrative overwhelmingly supports the officers.

I want to be clear that while I absolutely despise any kind of support for cops, justice for Iremamber Sykap and every other person harassed, assaulted, and murdered by the Honolulu Police Department is not imprisoning said police. I do not believe in convictions or prison for cops or anyone else who hurts and kills people because incarceration is not the answer. I’ve written about what justice for victims of policing might look like in posts such as this one and this one because what we don’t need here in Hawaiʻi is more policing and incarceration for anyone. HPD has murdered Lindani Myeni, Iremamber “Baby” Sykap, Reno Velleses, Michael Kahana Davis, Mark Ahnee, Herbden Gabriel, Aaron Torres, Gregory Gordeon, Stephen Dinnan, Victor Rivera, Richard Nelson, James Pickard Jr., Sheldon Haleck, Walden Dang, Dwain Lasit, Cameron Johnson, Pekelo Sanchez, Renie Cablay, Steven Allan Kaluahinui Hyer Jr., Gavalynn Mahuka, Freddie Whitmore, Michael Perez, Tison Dinney, Sherianne Leinaʻala Nixon, Siatuu Tauai Jr., Kyle Thomas, Danny Colton, Peter Purcell, Michael Kalahehoe, Dustin Spencer, Dana Brown, and other folks not mentioned here and until we abolish policing in Hawaiʻi, more names will inevitably be added to that list. It’s abhorrent that Hawaiʻi’s love for police runs so deep, but I have hope that one day we’ll break that bond and finally see the many possibilities of abolition as justice for all victims of HPD.” I hope Iremamber Sykap can rest even with the world against him.