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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 7, 2005

Rally cry: 'Justice now!'

By Gordon Y.K. Pang and Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writers

The Kamehameha Schools cause brings tears to the eyes of Ronnette Ome of Kapolei. Ome was among about 15,000 participants in yesterday's gathering on O'ahu.

Photos by Rebecca Breyer | The Honolulu Advertiser

Cami Kanoa of Manoa joins in the march from 'Iolani Palace to the Royal Mausoleum. The Hawaiian flag displayed upside-down signifies a time of distress.
Native Hawaiians and their supporters march through part of Chinatown on their way from 'Iolani Palace to Mauna 'Ala, the resting place of Kamehameha Schools founder Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

Lucy Pemoni | Associated Press

Frenchy DeSoto of Wai'anae, attending the 'Iolani Palace rally in a wheelchair, joins in support for Kamehameha Schools. DeSoto is a former trustee of the state's Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Rebecca Breyer | The Honolulu Advertiser

Conch shells blew and Hawaiian flags waved as tens of thousands of Hawaiians from Kaua'i to the Big Island united yesterday in support of Kamehameha Schools' admissions policy.

The massive show of unity was in response to Tuesday's appeals court ruling that Kamehameha Schools' 117-year-old practice of giving admissions preference to students of Hawaiian blood violates federal civil rights laws.

An estimated 20,000 Hawaiians and their supporters gathered yesterday at events on five islands — O'ahu, Kaua'i, Moloka'i, Maui and Hawai'i — to hear Kamehameha Schools reiterate its vow to fight the court's decision.

"This is the largest unity of Hawaiian people I've seen in my lifetime," said 39-year-old Garay Ke'aka, one of about 15,000 people who participated in yesterday's rally and march on O'ahu.

They began with a two-hour rally at 'Iolani Palace, then marched almost two miles along King Street and up Nu'uanu Avenue to Mauna 'Ala, the Royal Mausoleum. Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the school's founder, is buried there with other Hawaiian royalty.

On Kaua'i, police estimated 500 people turned out in support of the school's legal battle.

"How can people take away from a race that has so little? What kind of mean-spiritedness does it take to do that?" said Imaikalani Patrick Aiu, 29, of Wailua. "I hope it gets reversed. If not, Hawaiians will have to take drastic action — Hawaiians and everybody in the state who believes in justice."

In Kona on the Big Island, between 300 and 400 people marched along Ali'i Drive in Kailua village.

"Kamehameha is a good school because 90 percent of the students go on to college," said Alexandra Fernandez, whose son is a senior at the school's Kea'au campus. "That's a good education and it's for our Hawaiian children."

On O'ahu, Sgt. William Axt of the Honolulu Police Department estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 of the 15,000 people at the morning rally joined in the march.

"It takes your breath away to see this much Hawaiians united," said Malia Umi, a University of Hawai'i senior from Pahoa on the Big Island.

Umi noted that Hawaiians till now have been divided on issues such as the Akaka bill, which would give federal recognition to Native Hawaiians and Hawaiian sovereignty.

Yesterday, she saw all sides coming together as chants of "Justice now!" echoed throughout the march.

"Hawaiians are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder," Umi said. "If this is taken away, what else have we got?"

About 5,100 Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian students from kindergarten through 12th grade attend the three Kamehameha campuses, funded by a trust now worth $6.2 billion. Admission is highly prized in Hawai'i because of the quality of the education and the relatively low cost.

Non-Hawaiians may be admitted if there are openings after Hawaiians who meet the criteria have been offered admission.

The lawsuit against the school was brought by an non-Hawaiian student, identified only as John Doe, who was turned down for admission in 2003.

On O'ahu, school trustee Nainoa Thompson set the mood for the day when he read from a speech that was given by former Kamehameha principal Uldrick Thompson (no relation) more than a century ago. The speech told of the need for Hawaiians to stand up for what they believe belongs to them, including their heritage.

The century-old speech, Nainoa Thompson said, also described Kamehameha as "the last hope of the Hawaiian people."

One thing that the former principal got wrong, he said, was his fear that Hawaiians would stand alone in their plight.

"That court ruling touched a deep, deep nerve in all of us," Thompson said. "Hawai'i is special and at the core of that specialness is what grounds the culture here is the Native Hawaiian's culture. I don't believe we are standing alone."

Gov. Linda Lingle, who walked in the O'ahu march with Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, chief of staff Bob Awana and other members of her Cabinet, touched on the same subject as Thompson.

While people in Hawai'i disagree on many issues, most people are "in exact alignment" on the Kamehameha issue, the governor said. "And we need to be in exact alignment today."

Lingle added: "Regardless of the legal basis for this position, this is not a just position."

The two attorneys who represent the child challenging the admissions policy said they do not believe that the judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be swayed by yesterday's display of unity.

Sacramento-based attorney Eric Grant said he respects the right of those who gathered to rally yesterday. "That's fine, this is America, we have free speech," he said. "The case is going to be resolved in court, though.

"If they have any impact at all, it's probably negative for the schools," Grant said. "To my experience, (judges) generally don't like to be pressured. I think in 99 percent of the cases, they ignore it, and if they take any account of it at all, they probably resent it."

John Goemans, the Hawai'i attorney representing John Doe, also said he does not believe that the rallies would have any impact, but said he was impressed with the large turnout on O'ahu.

"That's a big crowd," he said. "Anybody can demonstrate all they want but that isn't how issues are decided."

Robbie Alm, a Caucasian who resides on O'ahu, said he never felt envy when Hawaiian friends of his entered Kamehameha.

"I knew I had other options," he said.

"As a child, I had learned from my parents that we all get gifts in our lives but not always the same gifts.

"And you do not covet the gifts of others."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Correction: The name of former Kamehameha principal Uldrick Thompson also was misspelled in a previous version of this story.