LAHAINA – Front Street ran red with marchers Sunday morning as more than 5,000 people joined in the Aloha ‘Aina Unity March.
The popular street was closed to motor vehicles beginning around 10 a.m. as organizers began to rally marchers at Mala Wharf. Tourists and workers came out of oceanfront stores to watch as the sea of marchers, dressed mostly in red, walked down a crowded Front Street holding signs, blowing conch shells and chanting.
The march was planned to raise awareness about overdevelopment and exploitation of natural and cultural resources, organizers said.
The Maui News / EILEEN CHAO photo”Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources and values are why our visitor industry exists. Assaults on those resources are assaults on Hawaii’s number one industry, tourism,” event organizer Tiare Lawrence said in a news release.
Lawrence said during a rally at Kamehameha Iki Park after the march that “this was probably the biggest march in Maui’s history,” estimating attendance was close to 6,000 people.
Among the issues raised Sunday were the development of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope atop Haleakala and the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea; the continued testing of genetically engineered crops in Maui County; and the restoration of mauka-to-makai stream flow around the island.
“These are Maui issues that have impacts on all the islands. We need to fight for our farmers, we need to control our wai, we need to stand in unity for our aina before it’s too late,” cultural practitioner and march organizer Ke’eaumoku Kapu said in a statement.
A similar march held on Oahu in August attracted thousands of participants. Lawrence said that organizers intend to hold a similar demonstration on Kauai, with other islands to follow.
“It’s really awareness, education and activation,” Lawrence said, adding that she hopes people are inspired by the march to “activate your own community to get more involved.”
She added that one of the core issues is the Native Hawaiian identity and push for sovereignty, though the march bridges that community with others like environmentalists.
“There’s so many assaults on our land, we felt that by bringing our Native Hawaiian community and our environmental groups together, we’re a force to be reckoned with because we’re joining forces and we’re saying a’ole (no) to the assaults that have taken place on our aina,” she said.
South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing, who chairs the state House Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs Committee, marched alongside several of his constituents Sunday.
“Aloha aina is the message that we’re entrusted with this land from our kupuna, not to desecrate or develop or profit (from), but to protect and malama (take care of) and cherish. I think that’s a message that resonates with everyone and it’s spreading around the world,” he said.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By EILEEN CHAO – Staff Writer (email@example.com) , The Maui News