Statehood celebration at palace gets heated

DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM State Sen. Sam Slom, holding a U.S. flag, and state Rep. Barbara Marumoto, dressed as the Statue of Liberty, faced protesters who said Iolani Palace was the wrong place for yesterday’s statehood celebration. Statehood celebration at palace gets heated Protesters say the event was held at the “scene of a crime” By Diana Leone A small group marking Hawaii’s statehood anniversary yesterday was confronted by protesters who said the grounds of Iolani Palace were the wrong place for the celebration. Clashing views of Hawaii history were evident as about 50 native Hawaiians and supporters with a public address system shouted at a similar number of American flag-waving Statehood Day celebrants trying to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” without accompaniment. The statehood group carried American flags, including the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag of the American Revolutionary War. Protesters carried Queen Liliuokalani’s Hae Kalaunu crown flag and had posted banners such as “De-occupy Pae Aina O Hawaii” or “Kuokoa Kanaka Maoli Independence.” The event was organized by state Sen. Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai), who said the palace grounds were “exactly the right place because this is where statehood was declared” on Aug. 21, 1959. Slom, president of Small Business Hawaii, said he promoted the event through e-mails and media announcements, and that “anyone was welcome to come.” Several protesters said they were there because they found Slom’s choice of the Iolani Palace grounds, viewed as the heart of the Hawaiian monarchy, as provocative and insulting. “This is a sacred spot, which is the seat of our government,” said Kekuni Blaisdell, a longtime Hawaiian sovereignty activist, of the importance of Iolani Palace. Before the 10 a.m. start time of Slom’s event, a male protester with a microphone urged the statehood celebration be held at the state Capitol instead. “This is the scene of a crime,” said another protester, Karen Murray. “The queen was held captive up there,” she said, pointing to the upper story of the palace. Among those gathered with Slom were H. William Burgess, who challenged the constitutionality of the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in federal court, and Kenneth Conklin, whose lawsuit successfully opened OHA trustee positions to non-Hawaiians.   DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM Pam Smith and Keli’i Collier clashed as friends held on to Collier. Burgess, who said he remembers Statehood Day as a day of rejoicing in Hawaii, called the protest part of “the politics of racial grievance.” The total number celebrating statehood with Slom appeared to be fewer than 50, not including the Kalani High School Band, which he had invited to play. The band left the event before it started and without playing their instruments after being heckled by protesters. “We should not be here. We don’t have to subject our students to that kind of situation,” one adult with the band said as the students were escorted away. Slom tried to make a short speech about the significance of Statehood Day but could hardly be heard over protesters shouting comments such as, “We have less freedom now. We had more freedom in our own kingdom.” Though there were moments of heated argument and boisterous shouting, the hour-long encounter between the two sides had moments of civility as well. “I’m not attacking you as a person,” protester Kamana Beamer told Slom. “I’m attacking America’s occupation of Hawaii.” Beamer said he considers himself to have dual citizenship of both the United States and the kingdom of Hawaii.   DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM A group marking Hawaii’s statehood clashed yesterday with a group objecting to the observance of the anniversary on the grounds of Iolani Palace. Above, H. William Burgess and his wife, Sandra Puanani Burgess (at left with back to camera), had words with Hanaloa (no last name given) as Dexter Kaiama tried to separate the two arguing sides. At one point a protester put his hand on city spokesman Bill Brennan’s shoulder as if to push him, while asking the statehood celebrators to leave. Brennan stood his ground and asked the man to take his hand away. Protester Baron Ching has no Hawaiian blood, but said his Chinese grandfather protested the annexation of Hawaii as an American territory because of American treatment of Chinese and Japanese. Ching said the Hawaiian protesters might “yell a little bit and wag fingers,” but he noted that in 113 years of objections to annexation, “there has been not one single act of violence.” State Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Waialae-Kahala) wore a Statue of Liberty costume to the event, which she said she expected would be “lighthearted.” Instead, she said, afterward, “I was very upset” at the behavior of the protesters. “They were directing a lot of their remarks at the students, and it was unseemly behavior to address it at the students. “If they wanted to direct it at Sen. Slom, that’s fair game,” Marumoto said, “but the students were really victims in this situation. It was very sad.” As the two groups began to disperse, there were signs of aloha, too. The white-mustachioed Burgess, his blue dress shirt wet with sweat, was sharing an animated but friendly conversation with a long-haired protester wearing a red Hawaiian sovereignty T-shirt as the two sat in the shade of Iolani Palace.   DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM After the statehood group started to pack up, the protesters formed a circle to chant.]]>

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