July 4 protest at state airport brings to light Native Hawaiian struggles over land rights

Published: Jul. 4, 2021 at 6:14 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 4, 2021 at 6:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Traffic at the already congested state airports this July 4th slowed to a crawl Sunday due to a protest by native Hawaiians and advocates.

Organizers said hundreds took part in a drive-by convoys at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and other airports around the state today.

“On this day, July 4th, We are not American, we are not American ... This is not our holiday,” said Healani Sonoda-Pale of Ka Lahui Hawaii.

The protest was about a land bill that some say was unfair to Hawaiians but participants said their concerns were much broader.

That measure -- House bill 499 -- would allow the state to extend commercials leases on state land by up to another 40 years. Currently, the maximum term is 65 years.

“House bill 499 is one of the worst pieces of legislation that has come along,” said Sonoda-Pale.

“They pass House Bill 499 to give developers the leases of stolen Hawaiian lands while our people make up 40 percent of the houseless in Hawaii.

Suzanne Case, chair of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, testified in favor of the bill during the past Legislative session, saying it would allow existing business to continue to operate.

“The Department believes that retaining long-term lessees in good standing is in the best interests of the State and therefore supports the bill,” Case wrote.

Activist and poi maker Daniel Anthony said that land would be be better used for sustainable agriculture. He also criticized political leaders for over relying on tourism

“When you come here you participate in conflict tourism. When you vote for terrible leaders, you participate in conflict democracy,” he said.

Airport officials said they did not issue any citations to protesters today.

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