Ke Ao Maoli
Aloha mai kakou!
It happened last week. Not so far away, here on Kaua`i.
SUBHEAD: US military intelligence come out in numbers to witness prayer for Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.
Image above: Early stages of Salt Pond Beach "Hands across the Sands" vigil. All photos by Juan Wilson.
By Juan Wilson on 27 June 2010 -
Yesterday, June 26th, marked a worldwide prayer vigil in observance of the ongoing Gulf of Mexico BP oil disaster. When the event was planned, those interested in participating on Kauai had the option of joining hands at Hanalei Beach or Lydgate State Park.
My wife, Linda Pascatore, and I decided a few days before the event not to go because it would have meant driving at least halfway around the island and burning a couple of gallons of gas, to attend a prayer to save the planet from runaway petroleum. We were going to spend our morning gardening instead.
At the last minute we got a message from Diana Labedz that she had found a volunteer to add Salt Pond Beach Park, in Hanapepe on Kauai's westside, to the list of participating locations. This was on the day before the event. We live in Hanapepe and decided to change plans and join the prayer for the planet.
The event was scheduled from 11am-12pm. We arrived on time and as we entered the beach parking lot we noticed a Kauai County Police car parked facing the approaching road (an unusual occurrence).
It was eleven and, being Kauai time, it seemed nobody had showed up yet. We walked around looking for who might be 'da kine' for planetary prayer... in other words we were looking for old hippie types. Linda spotted a few likely participants near the water's edge at about 11:30 and went over to see who they were.
Image above: Sovereignty flag in foreground and 'demonstrators' right-back-ground.
Soon another one of our tribe showed up. He began setting up a rainbow striped Hawaiian sovereignty flag and some signs to mark our gathering place. His signs read:
"Take pride in your aina. Show it to the World. Hawaii is not America and it never will be."
Within minutes two jumbo luxury SUV's, gunmetal and mauve, pulled into the parking places right behind the flag. There were four young men in each. The rolled down the windows with the engines running. They pulled out cameras and other devices and began recoding and documenting the events. It seemed funny that they would even know we'd be there. Hardly anyone did.
Image above: Young military professionals in gunmetal SUV at Salt Pond Beach. Note cameras concealed in lap and cup holder.
I immediately grabbed my camera and approached the vehicles. As I shot a few pictures they began packing up their equipment. They seemed upset to be photographed. So much for undercover intelligence? I leaned in on the gunmetal SUV. The boys inside looked to be in their mid to late twenties. All wore jeans; most wore dark tees. I asked: "US military?". I got a one word answer from the back seat: "Yes". Another voice in the back. "Hey, no pictures!".
Even though the eight of them outnumbered the participants on the beach, they seemed to get nervous and defensive after that. Within 20 seconds they made a decision to decamp. They stowed their recording gear. Windows were raised and both vehicles backed out and were quickly gone. They weren't there at 12:30 when out numbers crested at about twenty.
Image above: The 'local' interpreter-scout zips up recording equipment sitting in mauve Lincoln Navigator.
I suppose the upcoming RIMPAC 2010 (operated out of the PMRF here on Kauai) is a good reason to have lots of young professional military on island guarding American interests and gathering intel. But do they need to burn a couple of gallons of gas in a couple of air-conditioned jumbo SUVs to check out a prayer vigil to save the Gulf of Mexico from petroleum? This was a gathering of peaceful people holding hands to pray and meditate at the beach. Why is our military conducting such domestic surveillance of US citizens?
As the biggest consumer of fossil fuels in the world, and the biggest customer of BP, and the biggest user of offshore gulf oil, they are just protecting their interests... and not ours.
Image above: Military team heads out of Salt Pond Park in Lincoln Navigator license plate KZW-794.
The story has not ended with the above. Just before 1:00 pm. I took down the wind sack, because I had to go somewhere, but planned to return in a couple of hours. Around 3:00 pm. I got a call from a friend that the ranger was taking pictures and removing the signs, because someone complained. They could not prevent the ranger to do this, so in about 30 minutes I went to Salt Pond Park and found the ranger Eric Rita. I asked him why he had removed the signs and if I could get them back. He told me that they were in violation of the sign ordinance of Kaua`i County. When I said that he had never removed any other signs from the park before, although there were other signs like birthday, anniversary, church group signs etc., his answer was that those are OK, because they are not advertising. When I challenged him what was advertising in these two sentences:"Take pride in your ‘āina and show it to the world! Kaua`i is not America and it never will be." he said he could not answer that, but he got a radio order from his boss John Martin that someone complained and they demanded the removal of the signs from public view. I would have to go and see John Martin on Monday in Lihue in his office and claim my signs back.
In my assessment it is a clear-cut case of human rights violation, because this action was public education and the sign ordinance regulates only commercial signs. It clearly shows that the Empire is afraid of us: kānaka maoli and kānaka ē. It is interesting that someone found John Martin on his day off to report this case and he acted immediately redirecting his ranger to Salt Pond from a different location, then ordered him to drive and deliver the signs to Lihue immediately, while in the past when we reported restroom problems to John Martin's office (urinal clogged up, door lock broken, etc.) it always took them more than a month to have it fixed even if fixing those things took less than 20 minutes.
After all day calling on Monday finally on Tuesday I could reach the manager of the Department of Parks. He was very pleasant and friendly and he assured me that once his ranger comes back with the signs that he had impounded last week I would be able to come to pick them up. This is what I did. I went to his office with a friend and John Martin did not even want to see us.
The signs were there at the receptionist and we could pick them up without any hassle.
On our way out one of the officers said. "Just don't keep them in our parks!"
I responded smiling: "We won't. We will keep them in OUR parks." Case closed. Ain't this freedom of speech?
Me ke aloha
János Keoni Samu