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New city parks rule to crackdown on vendors who hide behind free speech permits

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HONOLULU -

The t-shirt stand at Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore is one of three operating.

One is at Pipeline, another at Waimea Bay.

They all have permits for September. But come next month, it will be a different story.

The city began notifying religious groups and other non-profits who come in for park permits that starting October 1, it will not be business as usual.

“We are going to honor the permits we issued for September and then in October, we will start enforcing," said City Parks Director Michelle Nekota.

A worker manning the tables at another beach is hawking t-shirts that brag about jumping off the rock at Waimea.

Visitors from Australia snatch up several to take back home.

The shirt's logos make no mention of the church's mission, and we see no religious literature being distributed.

Nimai Das is not sure what to expect next month under the new crackdown.

Das said the church’s Yoga Center feeds them and pays them a small fee for manning the tables.

He told us the group's leader, Dipak Sarkar, has a monopoly on the North shore permits as well as at Hanauma Bay, under names of his wife and other relatives.

 “Dipak is the boss. He is doing everything,” said Das, who said he hasn’t been told anything will change.

“This month we have permit. I don’t know about next month," he said.

The city believes new language will uphold any legal challenges.

"It is absolutely fair because we are allowing first amendment rights, which is important to the public, and all of us, and we are allowing that to happen. We are not allowing commercial merchandise," said Nekota.

Critics hope the rule change will get rid of the so called sanctified food of chips and soda, and the sale of things like reef walkers that go against the mission of a marine preserve at Hanauma Bay.

Nekota said city inspectors will be spot checking, and Honolulu police officers will be enforcing the new rules.

Penalties will be up to a $500 or 30 days in jail.

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