Hawaiians observed Hawaiian Independence Restoration Day at Thomas Square yesterday. From left, Morgan Torris, Kawika Liu and Baron Ching lowered the American flag and replaced it with the Hawaiian flag in a symbolic ceremony.

Hawaiian activists
want U.S. out

100 people gather to commemorate
the 1843 withdrawal of British forces

By Treena Shapiro

Hawaiian activists commemorated Hawaiian Independence Restoration Day in Thomas Square yesterday with calls for the United States to end what they believe is an illegal military occupation.

For some of the 100 people in attendance, recent events, such as the City Council's preliminary passage of a revised condominium leasehold conversion bill and challenges to the constitutionality of programs that give preference to native Hawaiians, made the occasion even more poignant.

Yesterday's event commemorates July 31, 1843, when Britain ended its five-month military occupation of Hawaii and recognized Kamehameha III as the rightful sovereign.

"We call on the United States to end its fraudulent 104-year-old occupation of our homelands," said event organizer Kekuni Blaisdell.

"It took Britain only five months to withdraw from its unlawful colonial occupation. Why must it take the U.S. over a century to go home?"

Blaisdell said the Hawaiian's fight for sovereignty is a fight for survival.

University of Hawaii professor Noenoe Silva said that Hawaiians have been involved in the same fight to recover their land since it was first occupied.

"There's all different kinds of ways of taking our land, but it's always the same struggle," she said.

"The U.S. military is taking land from us again to defend America. The City and County of Honolulu is trying to bust the Queen Liliuokalani's Trust," Silva said.

She referred to a bill before the City Council that would allow qualified leasehold owner-occupants to gain title to the land under their units by using the city's condemnation powers to force the owners of the fee interest into selling at a price determined by an independent party.

The Queen Liliuokalani Trust funds more than 300 social programs in part from revenues derived from lease interest fees.

"That was her (Queen Liliuokalani's) land she inherited from her ancestors. From time immemorial that land belonged to her family and she put it in trust for us because she knew that we were being impoverished," Silva said. "If they force that sale, they're going to bust the trust."

Keanu Sai, Hawaiian kingdom minister of the interior, did not characterize the event as a protest.

"We're not seeking independence. We're already independent. We're just exposing it through celebration of our past."

Many members of the Hawaiian community have been angered by challenges to government programs that had been designed to help them, such as those offered though Kamehameha Schools or the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, he said.

"If someone keeps taking something away from you, you get mad, especially when they're the ones who said you can have it and created the programs, and then they take the programs away. That's deceitful," Sai said.

However, he added. "This day, really, legally and historically, has nothing to do with what's happening now. What's happening now is directly attributed to Hawaii being occupied by the United States."

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