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Friday, January 12, 2001

seek nonviolent

A rally Monday responds to
a lawsuit claiming laws that
favor Hawaiians are
constitutional violations

By Mary Adamski

Hawaiian homestead residents were asked to picture themselves in those newsreel shots shown on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend of masses of people united in the nonviolent 1960s civil-rights demonstrations.

"We may have to resort to organized civil disobedience," state Rep. Michael Kahikina (D, Nanakuli) told a Leeward Coast crowd last night.

More than 600 people gathered at Nanakuli High School to hear a briefing on the court challenge that could threaten native Hawaiian entitlements guaranteed in the state Constitution.

Organizers said the audience was just a sample of the crowd expected Monday at the state Capitol for a rally "to defend Hawaiian rights." And that rally is just the beginning of organized events should the lawsuit claims be upheld in federal court.

In the suit against the state, Patrick Barrett claims that the state's Article 12 violates the U.S. constitutional guarantee of equal protection of law for all citizens. The article created the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, adopted the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act passed by Congress and provides for native gathering rights.

A March 12 hearing is set on Barrett's request for an injunction to immediately halt those government-sanctioned functions that favor Hawaiians.

"Should it prevail, in the worst-case scenario, we would have to stop issuing loans and new homestead leases," said Darryl Yagodich, head of planning with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

"I don't think that existing leases must be returned," he told the worried crowd, most of whom live on Hawaiian homesteads.

A court decision is expected next week on a request by the State Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations to intervene in the suit.

Council Chairman Tony Sang said Hawaiians are not satisfied to have their interests represented only by the state attorney general, as happened in the Rice vs. Cayetano case. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Rice and ended the Hawaiians-only voting for OHA trustees.

"I'm very furious to be under threat at this point. If Barrett should win, opportunities for all Hawaiians would be gone," said Kawika Gapero, who is with Hui Kako'o, which represents 30,000 applicants for Hawaiian homesteads who are still on a waiting list.

"I don't remember it ever being this tense," said former OHA trustee Frenchy DeSoto. "You can hear the anger. I think the state is in big trouble. We'd have to make sure that it's kept nonviolent."

If Hawaiians resort to civil disobedience "They will hear us not only in the state Capitol but in Washington, D.C., and around the world," said Kamaki Kanahele, president of the Nanakuli Hawaiian Homestead Association.

Kanahele underscored that nonviolence is crucial. "We will kill them with aloha," he said. "We will do this righteously."

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