Gathering Places


Monday, May 14, 2001

The march to protest activities of the Asian Development
Bank proceeded in an orderly manner to the Hawaii
Convention Center where the ADB held its
conference last week.

What if they gave
a protest and nobody
much noticed?

The demonstration against the Asian Development Bank in front of the Hawaii Convention Center last Wednesday was quite peaceful, a street party thrown to rag a few visitors. All of the delegates left for lunch shortly before it started and those in the camera crews came close to outnumbering all others.

ADB Conference Logo About 400 demonstrated to the sounds of drums, most of them smiling and dancing with their signs, long on goodwill and short on righteous anger.

By the time they got down Kalakaua to Kuhio Beach, it began to look like Waikiki's Polynesian paralysis had started to work. A trio of beachboys complete with canoe paddles perched at the stem of Duke's statue smiling at the passersby. A haole visitor in a gray hat asked what the parade was about, and the drummers on the truck started to lose a beat. At the shoreline, swimmers were having too much fun to watch.

Overhead a police helicopter hovered noisily the entire time, interrupting visitors' naps and the lambent sound of waves at the shore. We had cops on roof tops, squads of swat troops on side streets, the University of Hawaii football team pressed into police service in aloha shirts in front of the convention center, overweight plainclothes cops dressed as locals randomly pedaling bikes, and a small Jeb-Stewart cavalry of blue suits on bikes as well. Cop cars even led the parade and blue-suited constabulary enclosed its periphery.

With the army of polizei outnumbering the few poor protesters, the government's response to the civil exercise of free speech looked like a bad, expensive joke ($4 million to $7 million in city funds for "security"). Let's see: $4 million divided by a inflated count of 600 demonstrators=$6667 per demonstrator. One wag observed that the UH football team was visibly relieved they didn't have to start preseason with a loss.

The city had closed the zoo, protecting the poor caged critters from the presumed wrath of protesters advocating the protection of animals. In Kapiolani Park the plain clothesmen lolled in a ring on the grass near Monsarrat while a large, overheated official debriefed them. The helicopter still hovered, as if to get in some overtime.

An elderly Hawaiian rose on the bandstand to intone a chant, then deliver a kumu's classic lecture on the plight of indigenous peoples, unburdening himself of a stream of shibboleths that had a handful cheering as the rest of us headed for our cars. He quickly made it clear that his grasp of Hawaiian history had some serious biases and oversimplifications, but out of misplaced politeness, no Hawaiian protested his expression on their behalf.

During his oratory, a small girl, probably a granddaughter, stood close to him looking up at him with a puzzled smile.

I realized that her reaction spoke for all of us.

On a hot day in the globalization game, the taxpayers checked their wallets to see how much the contest would cost us, the ADB never even made it to the ballpark, and the protesters final box score read no hits, no runs, and no one left on base. Protest.

Not with bang but a...

Paul Berry is a writer
and former teacher.

Asian Development Bank

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