Swarm of Marines hits Bellows beach
The exercise spares Makua Beach, but protesters rally to oppose live ammunition in Makua Valley
By Harold Morse
Hundreds of Marines hit the beach at Bellows Air Force Station shortly after 6 a.m. today, and joined convoys headed for exercises at Kahuku and Schofield Barracks.
About 250 other Marines were ferried from their ships by helicopter to Makua Valley for live firing exercises.
Almost 900 Marines participated in today’s exercises.
The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Pendleton in California, is here for training as part of a six-month Western Pacific, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean deployment.
The Marines were originally supposed to land at Makua beach for the exercises.
But Makua Valley area residents and Hawaiian activists spoke out against the use of the beach.
Last night, activists joined in a torchlight and candlelight march to Makua Military Reservation.
The blowing of conch shells, carrying of ti leaves and wearing of yellow ribbons to symbolize Makua Valley accompanied the procession. Prayers and chants were offered both before and after the march. Ceremonies at the gate included songs, closing with the singing of Hawaii Aloha.
Michael Motas of Makaha Valley said last night’s march was to give awareness to everyone on Oahu that in the eyes of native Hawaiians, the continued use of Makua Valley for live-firing exercises is a desecration of a sacred place.
“We know they’re not going to use the beach, but they are going to use Makaha Valley,” said Virginia Johnson of Makaha. “We’re protesting because of the sacredness of the valley. It should not be used any more for military maneuvers. In fact, there are three known heiau in the valley.”
“My feeling is the Marines acted in good faith, and I want to honor that good faith,” said Roger Furrer of Makaha, a farmer. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this tonight, so that we can make our point without coming into conflict with the Marines.”
The long-term goal is to end the live firing at Makua and to restore the entire valley, Furrer said.
“Get the military out of Makua, get it cleaned up and returned to a cultural and traditional use,” Sparky Rodrigues of Waianae said.
“It’s to stop the continued desecration of the aina here by the military war machine,” said Gwen Kim, a social worker from Kaaawa.”
Kim said she is affiliated with a group called Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific.
Signs carried on the march read “Sacred Iz Makua” and “Love is the Answer.”