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Aloha March charms capital, grabs attention

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
August 8, 1998

By Pete Pichaske, Star-Bulletin

WASHINGTON -- Seated in a wheelchair because of his diabetes, rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue in a green lei po'o and a red kikepa at the head of 150 cheering, chanting, sign- and flag-waving fellow native Hawaiians and their supporters, Butch Kekahu looked a happy man.

"I feel great," he said. "We came here to make a statement and we made it -- a long overdue statement."

The Aloha March on Washington, a 17-year-old dream of Kekahu to increase national awareness of the plight of native Hawaiians 100 years after annexation, culminated today with a two-mile walk from the Capitol building, past the White House to the Ellipse.

Although the number of marchers fell short of the thousands organizers had hoped for, few were complaining.

"This is not about numbers. This is about pono," said Al Wong, a march leader from Massachusetts.

Organizers said they achieved their goal of getting out the word, noting news reports on CNN, in the Washington Post yesterday and today, and on several radio networks that reached three million to five million listeners.

"To continue with our struggle, the world must know, and they know now," said Wong.

"The sovereignty movement needs a little more high visibility here in Washington, and I think we got it,' said marcher Mark LaBarre, who lives in nearby Rockville, Md., but was raised on Oahu.

"I know Washington sees these things all the time, but this is a huge event for the people from Hawaii. And we're getting attention."

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