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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, September 8, 2003

Supporters of Native Hawaiian activism, many of them students from Kamehameha Schools, march down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki in a "response to attacks on Hawaiian rights." Hawaiian flags were carried upside down in protest.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Thousands join march for Hawaiian rights

By Dan Nakaso and Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writers

Tears ringed Nyla Lolotai's eyes as she marched down Kalakaua Avenue yesterday with more than 5,000 other supporters of Hawaiian rights in a rare, massive display of Hawaiian unity.

Lolotai, like many others who marched yesterday, doesn't normally take part in public demonstrations. But like the others, she was moved to join yesterday's "March for Justice" in response to an Aug. 20 federal court order forcing Kamehameha Schools to enroll a non-Hawaiian boy until a final verdict on the admission policy is made this fall.

The size of the mile-and-a-quarter march stirred deep emotions in Lolotai, who graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1976 and whose son, Mana, is a sophomore there.

"It's usually the Hawaiian way to be quiet," Lolotai said. "But we've been too quiet too long."

Some marchers yesterday chose to wear traditional Hawaiian clothing and carry staffs and other weapons. Representatives from Hawaiian Ali'i Trusts and Royal Ali'i Orders called for a peaceful march in support of social justice for Hawaiians.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Besides the sheer number of people, the march and rally represented a gathering of often disparate Hawaiian voices — from angry sovereignty advocates to Gov. Linda Lingle to the trustees of Kamehameha Schools to many non-Hawaiians.

"This is a great turnout from all kinds of people from across the state," Lingle said while walking down Kalakaua Avenue alongside Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona. "It raises awareness for the basic fairness that Hawaiian people are seeking. ... Clearly a majority of the community does support justice for Hawaiians."

Aiona, who has at least one-eighth Hawaiian blood, said people came out yesterday out of a sense of urgency for Hawaiian rights.

"With that comes unity and strength," he said. "That's where my community is at right now. It's awesome. You can feel the spirit. And it's all well intentioned."

Both Lingle and Aiona wore red T-shirts that read, "Ku I Ka Pono Justice for Hawaiians."

"It means stand up for righteousness," said Brawnson Adams, an 11-year-old, Kamehameha Schools seventh-grader. "The red represents the blood of Hawaiians."

Organizers sold out of the 5,000, red T-shirts and tank tops that were going for $5. And police estimated the crowd at about 5,000.

A court ruling regarding Kamehameha Schools admissions drew many to the march. Bernice Pauahi Bishop's will created the schools in 1884.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Bob Ching wore one of the shirts as he marched through Waikiki. He has no Hawaiian blood but his seventh-grade son attends Kamehameha, which has drawn Ching into Native Hawaiian concerns.

"I think it's everybody's issue," Ching said. "It's not a racial or ethnic thing. It's about what's right."

At the front of the march, members of various schools of lua, or Hawaiian martial arts, wore traditional kihei cloaks and carried staffs and other weapons. Further in back, other marchers sipped from water bottles and pushed baby strollers.

Police reported no problems.

"Very peaceful march," said HPD officer Randy Rivera as he watched the throng of people moving before him.

The march was organized by the 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition, a Hawaiian political action group. It was soon joined by other organizations and ended in a rally at the Kapi'olani Park Bandstand, where the Office of Hawaiian Affairs had planned its family day celebration.

The disparate groups represented various points along the Hawaiian political scale, including supporters and opponents of the Hawaiian federal recognition bill before Congress.

Lynette Cruz, a longtime opponent of the so-called Akaka bill, said the theme of the march was Hawaiian unity. But not all Hawaiians are unified, she said.

"We want to show support for Hawaiian rights," Cruz said. "But we're not going to the rally afterwards because we don't support federal recognition."

The march did, however, give police officers and marchers an opportunity to educate curious tourists about Hawaiian issues.

Mele Welte, a former Kamehameha teacher, carried a placard reading, "Honor, preserve, protect and celebrate the Hawaiian people," as she gave a mini lecture to a couple of tourists.

"I feel that people who attack Native rights need to consider the diversity of our country," she said.

With the sound of conch shells blowing in the background along Kalakaua Avenue, Roy Benham, who helped push for reforms at the former Bishop Estate and is now a member of Kamehameha's board of advisers, said the march may prove a significant turning point in Hawaiian activism.

"It's one of the first times we've seen so many organizations come together," Benham said. "It's something we're going to need in the future as we move forward. This is a good first step."

It was a step that began with Honolulu police shutting down Kalakaua Avenue through Waikiki. At the intersection of Kalakaua Avenue and Saratoga Road, speaker after speaker rallied marchers with stories of injustices toward Hawaiians and the need for action.

The next two hours were filled with angry shouts and times of solace.

At key points along the route, organizers erected portraits of Hawaiian royalty, where marchers stopped to pay homage.

Outside the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center representatives of various Hawaiian associations — including descendants of Hawaiian royalty — stood by a portrait of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, whose will created the Kamehameha Schools in 1884.

Kamehameha Schools trustees stood a few yards away, including trustee Robert Kihune, who held his straw hat over his heart.

Four Kamehameha Schools students wearing their blue and white school uniforms unwrapped a maile and ilima lei, which they hung over the princess' image. Other students chanted, played 'ukulele, sang and danced hula.

In the background, many marchers held hands and wept.

Like other Kamehameha students, Brawnson — the Kamehameha seventh-grader — was offered extra credit in his social studies and Hawaiian classes if he writes a paper about the march.

Many marchers felt that similar offers detracted from the day.

One student carried a hand-written sign that said, "Not Here 4 Extra Credit." Another's read, "What Extra Credit?"

Like other students, Brawnson said he wasn't drawn by a grade.

"We're here for the will," he said. "We're here to back up Pauahi."

Reach Dan Nakaso at 525-8085 or dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com. Reach Vicki Viotti at 525-8053 or vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com.