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5,000 stage peaceful march in Waikiki

Advertiser Staff
Published: Aug 17, 2009

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Puanani Rogers of Kupuna, Kaua'i, takes part in the rally at Kapi'olani Park today.
The rally followed a march through Waikiki that drew thousands of people.
REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

An estimated 5,000 demonstrators marched down Kalakaua Avenue this morning to observe the anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and to protest Gov. Linda Lingle's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of a Hawai'i Supreme Court ruling barring the state from selling or transferring ceded lands until pending Native Hawaiian claims to those lands are resolved.

"One of the things we could have done was to go to 'Iolani Palace and honor the day of Jan. 17, the overthrow of our queen, Lili'uokalani, and we had a long discussion about that," said Manu Kaiama, one of organizers of yesterday's march. "We did finally decide that we'd get more attention in Waikiki — the tourism board gets freaked out — and we get to talk to people who don't know anything about the history of Hawai'i. It's about educating people about the history of Hawai'i and getting their support on an international level."

The peaceful demonstration, which was joined by dozens of Hawaiian sovereignty groups and halau, began at Saratoga Road just after 10 a.m. and ended with a massive rally at Kapi'olani Park.

The march, which also featured chants and hula, drew the attention of hundreds of tourists, who lined the streets to take photographs and video.

Marchers, most wearing bright red shirts, carried signs emblazoned with "Stop Lingle Now," "Ceded = Stolen" and "Thank you for apology, now return our land." Many passed out flyers explaining the historical background of the overthrow and the ceded lands case.

Hawaiian rights activists take land case public in Waikiki march

Demonstration held in conjunction with overthrow observance

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

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Bearing signs emblazoned with "Impeach Lingle," "Ceded = Stolen" and "Ku I Ka Pono: Justice for Hawaiians," thousands of Hawaiian rights activists and supporters marched through Waikiki yesterday in a massive protest against the state's attempt to overturn a Hawai'i Supreme Court ruling on ceded lands.

The march, which was joined by dozens of halau, student groups and Hawaiian sovereignty organizations, proceeded without incident from Saratoga Road, down Kalakaua Avenue to Kapi'olani Park, where a large rally was staged.

"This is a celebration of Queen Lili'uokalani and the legacy our ali'i have left for us," said Vicky Holt-Takamine, who helped organize the event. "While we come to commemorate the overthrow and how wrong it was, we're also uplifted by coming together to celebrate our cultural identity, and to acknowledge the struggles we face."

Gatherings have been held each Jan. 17 in observance of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. Most have taken place at 'Iolani Palace, but organizers this year wanted a more visible presence to draw attention to the ceded lands controversy.

"We decided that we'd get more attention in Waikiki and we'd get to talk to people who don't know anything about the history of Hawai'i," said organizer Manu Kaiama. "It's about educating people about the history of Hawai'i and getting their support on an international level."

Last year, the Hawai'i Supreme Court ruled that the state could not sell or transfer ceded lands until Native Hawaiian claims to those lands were resolved. However, Gov. Linda Lingle has said that the court's ruling confuses the state's title to ceded lands, as conferred by the U.S. Congress in the Admission Act of 1957. Her administration has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Edward Hu, 29, a post-graduate fellow with the University of Hawai'i's William Richardson School of Law, questioned Lingle's decision.

"I think the issue is pretty simple," said Hu, who is not Hawaiian. "If there's property or land whose ownership is in question, the issue ought to be resolved before that property is sold. You don't even have to believe that the claims are valid, except that the Hawai'i Supreme Court has said that we need to resolve those claims before they can be sold. I don't see why Lingle has to appeal this. The highest court in her state has spoken."

Dolinda Kaholi, 54, of Waimanalo, pushed her mother, Jennie, 87, in a wheelchair down the middle of Kalakaua in a show of solidarity with the movement.

"It's time to take a stand," Kaholi said. "It's time to take back our land. They want to sell it, but it's not theirs to sell."

While the demonstration was peaceful, demonstrators weren't shy in expressing their dissatisfaction with Lingle.

A trio of protesters carried a giant effigy of the governor during the march, its hands painted with "I want your land." When the figure arrived at the park, giddy demonstrators took turns pitching their slippers at it.

Frank Damas, 21, of Wai'anae, marched with hundreds of his fellow Kamehameha Schools alumni, leading a mele calling for all Hawaiians to unite.

"These lands are the lands our ancestors prepared for us to live on because they knew that things in the future might not be the way they used to be," Damas said. "Linda Lingle might think that she has good intentions, but she needs to realize that the land is the most important thing that Hawaiians have. Everything that we are stems from the land."

Demonstrators found a sympathetic ear in 57-year-old Paula Kobos of Bellingham, Wash., whose father was stationed on O'ahu during World War II.

"I don't know all the details of the issues, but I absolutely support them," Kobos said.

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