Published on Sunday, November 13, 2011 by Agence France-Presse
By Dan Martin
Protesters March as APEC Tests Hawaii Hospitality
HONOLULU, Hawaii — Amid blasts on a traditional conch shell horn, hundreds of anti-globalization and native Hawaiian activists defied tight security to hold a protest march against an Asia-Pacific summit.
The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is taking place in HawaiiAt least 400 demonstrators sought to emulate the anti-capitalist “Occupy” protests seen elsewhere and highlight native Hawaiian issues as Honolulu native President Barack Obama hosted regional leaders.
“The leaders of the summit don’t stand with the people of the world but we do!” Liz Rees, an organizer of activist group “World Can’t Wait,” shouted through a bull-horn.
Activists who dispute the 1898 annexation of the islands by the United States held signs reading “US govt give back stolen Haw’n lands,” and speakers railed against perceived injustices against Hawaiians and other Pacific peoples.
But after a rally at a park dedicated to a revered former Hawaiian king, the marchers left famed Waikiki Beach, thwarted by security measures that were the tightest in Hawaii since after the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The tourist playground appeared braced for an invasion, with Secret Service, police and army personnel swarming over the white sand beaches of Obama’s birthplace.
Authorities locked down a roughly one-kilometer stretch of Waikiki and its offshore waters, leaving beaches that are normally filled with bikini-clad tourists walled off by concrete barriers and iron fencing.
Offshore, a pair of Coast Guard cutters cruised while police patrolled on jet-skis and small boats ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
An orange boom cut across a bay fronting key hotels whose weekend guests include Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev.
Several of the 21 member economies have agreed on the broad outlines of a new pan-Pacific trade pact being spearheaded by Obama.
But protester John Signor, a Honolulu teacher, said what the region needed was “fair trade, not free trade.”
“If you look around at what is happening in the world and the economic troubles and unfairness, it is time to question the Western capitalist model. A lot of people are getting rich, but a lot are getting stepped on.”
Some of his fellow demonstrators banged on drums or wore traditional Hawaiian kapa cloth garments.
Hawaiian officials had embraced the summit as a chance to showcase the islands’ famed hospitality, but it also has sparked grumbling among ordinary Honolulu residents and tourists unhappy with security that interfered with life in the laid-back holiday idyll.
“This is totally not what Hawaii is about,” local resident Tino Fornas said, gesturing at a roadblock manned by grim-faced police.
“Yeah, welcome to Hawaii. Now please leave,” he said of the assembled Pacific Rim leaders.
Some of Waikiki’s busiest streets were empty due to road closures on routes leading into the resorts area’s forest of hotels as federal agents and police barked at any cars or pedestrians that went astray.
“It’s insane. It feels like Communist China,” said Marvin Schuster, a 39-year-old from the US state of Pennsylvania who shelved plans to leave his hotel due to the difficulties getting around.
The discontent has been exacerbated by the killing of a Hawaii man who was shot by a US State Department security agent in a late-night altercation last weekend.
Reports indicated both men were inebriated. The agent was charged with murder. Dozens of people held a protest march last week calling for justice.
Meanwhile, about 150 members of the Falungong spiritual movement held a protest along a two-block stretch throughout Saturday near the hotel where China’s Hu was staying.
They held banners bearing statements such as “President Hu, stop persecuting Falungong,” and jeered Chinese delegation members who hurried past.
“We want the world to know about the Chinese government’s persecution of Falungong and its murder of our members,” said Cornelia Ritter, a Swiss native who lives in San Francisco.
She said most protesters came from abroad, many from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.