By MELISSA TANJI
WAILUKU — About 50 Native Hawaiians and their supporters held signs along Kaahumanu Avenue on Monday morning to demonstrate unity and to call for justice for Native Hawaiians.
"I think today is to show the voice of the Hawaiian people," said Wailuku resident Mikahala Helm. "We want justice. We are standing up for our rights. These rights are being assaulted."
Helm and other Hawaiians are concerned about recent court actions threatening state programs that benefit Hawaiians. Such programs include the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
A court hearing on the Arakaki v. Lingle lawsuit was scheduled for Monday in Honolulu before U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway. The lawsuit seeks to invalidate state funding for OHA and DHHL programs.
Early Monday morning, sign holders drew honks and cheers from passers-by during the rush hour. The demonstrators, wearing blue armbands to symbolize "justice," stood at the Mahalani Street-Kaahumanu Avenue intersection.
Maui's rally came a day after a strong showing on Oahu, where an estimated 8,000-plus people marched down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki to display support of Native Hawaiian programs and entitlements.
Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. of Pukalani attended the Sunday march on Oahu.
"It was so impressive," the Native Hawaiian cultural specialist said Monday morning. "It was a real good protest."
Marchers on Oahu wore red T-shirts representing Hawaiian blood.
Maxwell, who joined Maui's rally Monday, said all Hawaiian entitlements and legal rights "are being attacked."
He said it wasn't until statehood in August 1959 that Hawaiian rights began to be questioned.
He said ethic groups that came to Hawaii to work, such as the Japanese and Chinese, did not challenge the Hawaiians and their rights.
It was only until after statehood that "everyone wanted to be Hawaiian," he said.
Non-Hawaiian Alvin Soares of Wailuku resident joined Monday's demonstration.
"I feel strongly the Hawaiians have been cheated," he said. "It seems to be happening more."
Soares, a 77-year-old retired principal, said he'd gain nothing from rallying behind Hawaiians but felt a need to exhibit his support.
"I thought this is a critical time to do this. I felt it was the right thing to do. They don't need any eroding of their entitlements," he said.
The Oahu and Maui rallies also were aimed at showing Hawaiian unity after federal Judge David Ezra's ruling to allow a non-Hawaiian student to attend the Kamehameha Schools while a lawsuit challenging the school's admissions policy proceeds.
Helm said her daughter is a senior at the Kamehameha Schools on Oahu.
"We respect all the different people," she said. But "it's unfortunate that people have tried to use opportunities to chip away at the very things that are helping Hawaiians to survive."
A demonstration for Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians to support the Kamehameha Schools trust will be held at 4 p.m. today along Honoapiilani Highway fronting the Lahaina Cannery Mall.
Na Kupuna O Maui is organizing the "Peaceful Awareness" demonstration in Lahaina. For information, call Patricia Nishiyama at 667-4068.
Waiehu resident Stanley Chock said he has benefited from the Hawaiian homelands program and received a homestead a year ago at Waiehu Kou 2.
But the 70-year-old said he's worried about the next generation of Hawaiians, whose homelands program is being threatened by the lawsuits.
"Now days houses got so expensive," he said. "I feel sorry for the rest of my people, especially the young generation."
Kau'i Kahaiali'i, organizer of Maui's rally, said he wanted to gather people to show unity.
"This is nothing political," he said. "It's something pono (right) that we have to do.
"We can't be divided. That's what everyone sees," he said.
Kahaiali'i, who is president of the community association for Waiehu Kou 2 Hawaiian homesteads, said he was pleased with the turnout, although dark clouds hung overhead during the morning rush hour.
We "got blessed a few times by the ua (rain). We knew what we were going to do today was justified," he said.