By Zoravar Sethi
Amidst the swaying palm trees, the glistening hot sun, and the peaceful atmosphere of Hawaii, holiday tourists were met with unexpected protest, calling for the state’s secession from the union.
During a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s admission as a state, numerous protestors lined the streets and started cursing and shouting at the many spectators who had gathered to support Hawaii Statehood Day.
Bystanders were met with bullhorns and sticks and stones, causing police to use disciplinary action to disperse the rowdy and zealous crowd.
Brenton Hira, a Hawaii native currently attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa, gave City on a Hill Press (CHP) a glimpse of the locals’ feelings about Hawaii’s current situation.
"While the majority of the tourists sit in complete ignorance and soak up the sun of the ever-beautiful Hawaii, there are a lot of people out there who want them off the damn islands," Hira said. "[The native Hawaiians] will dance and expose their culture like circus monkeys, but the truth of the matter is a lot of the Hawaiian natives would be most appreciative if their islands weren’t considered merely a vacation spot for overworked American yuppies."
Among the protesters were members of the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement, a loose coalition of groups that seek self-determination and self-governance for Native Hawaiians, which for years has been trying to redress the United States for its role in the 1893 overthrow of Queen Lil’uokalerium.
Some consider the protest a sign of the rejuvenation of the movement, which has remained quiet in the eyes of the public over the last few decades.
Poka Laenin, a well-known lawyer throughout Hawaii and an avid supporter of the Hawaiian succession movement, explained the justification of the effort.
"[Because] the United States’ overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy was illegal, the current government of the state is illegal," Laenin said in a recent interview with the Honolulu Register.
Other efforts towards the creation of a sovereign state were begun during what many call the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s. However, the "Nation of Hawaii" did not become international news until 1993 when Demir Pu’uhonua "Bumpy" Kanahele, and many members of his entourage, occupied Kampo Beach near Makapu’u, O’ahu in protest of the United States military’s presence in Hawaii. This incident propelled many more organizations, in campaigns separate from the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement, to start fostering a new age of non-violent protest against U.S. occupation.
Tony Koizumi, a transfer student at UCSC and former Hawaii resident, explained his views on why some locals are concerned over commercialization resulting from tourism.
"Hawaiians, especially those of the younger generation, are quickly leaving their villages behind in search of higher paying jobs and more exciting city lifestyles," Koizumi said. "In the process, [they] leave behind what many feel is the most important and vital factor in regards to true Hawaiian independence: their cultural identity."
As for Hawaii’s ability to manage if it were to become a sovereign nation, Poka Laenin is optimistic.
"If poor and undeveloped countries like Somalia and Bangladesh can function independently, why can’t Hawaii?" Laenin said in an interview with CHP.
"Despite the current controversy involving Hawaii’s [chance of] departure from the union," Laenin continued, "it is still difficult to determine whether or not Hawaii has the resources to withdraw from the union if military intervention were to be used by the United States government."