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D.C. Protest Marks Annexation of Hawaii

Century Later, Marchers Seek Sovereignty

Washington Post
Sunday, August 9, 1998; Page A16

By Steven Gray
Washington Post Staff Writer

Marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. annexation of Hawaii, scores of protesters marched from the U.S. Capitol to the Ellipse yesterday, raising questions about how the 1898 annexation measure was drafted and demanding full sovereignty from the U.S. government.

Demonstrators said the march was held to heighten awareness in Washington of the growing support for sovereignty among native Hawaiians. Until recently, they said, the push for independence had been weakened because several pro-sovereignty factions fiercely competed for attention from the state's dwindling population of native Hawaiians.

Police officials no longer provide crowd estimates on demonstrations in the capital, but organizers said they had more than 200 participants.

The march comes five years after President Clinton signed a historic Senate resolution acknowledging the U.S. government's involvement in the 1893 overthrow of the independent Hawaiian government, then led by Queen Liliuokalani.

Several protesters, arguing that the resolution Clinton signed in 1993 did not settle claims against the United States, pledged to intensify pressure on the government to return land once owned by native Hawaiians.

The march's organizer, Butch Kekahu, 54, of Kauai, said the Hawaiian people "have already gotten an apology, so now we want to move on and get back to where we once were . . . independence."

Achieving independence is "the consensus of the Hawaiian people," said Kekahu, who was was in a wheelchair for most of the demonstration and who said that despite having diabetes, he had worked 17 years to organize the march. "We want to educate the American people about what they did."

Most of yesterday's protesters were residents of U.S. cities on the mainland, who said they learned about the march from relatives or on the Internet. One demonstrator, Michele Wong, a Dallas-based lawyer and mother, said she felt so compelled to attend the march that she missed part of her family's vacation in London.

"This is the first step to righting past wrongs," said Wong, 38, as she marched up Pennsylvania Avenue. "It's bringing awareness that native Hawaiians are unhappy with the way things are going, and this is a step onto the national level."

Wong, who is of partial Hawaiian descent, said she supports efforts to return seized lands to native Hawaiians. But she doubts the United States will ever support Hawaii's sovereignty efforts.

"There's no way the U.S. government will allow full independence," she said. "I just don't see that happening."

Copyright 1998
The Washington Post Company

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