About 40-50 people in total turned out, during the nearly 3 and l/2 hour protest at today’s Hilo Veterans Parade. The protest focus was the U.S. illegal wars of aggression and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the military including vehicles from Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) recently returned from Iraq. Among those present were Kanaka Maoli leaders, Kelii, “Skippy” Ioane, a Vietnam vet, Moanikeala Aka, Moana Tavares, and Noelani Mason, who together with David Schlesinger and others were broadcasting the protest live on Youthbuiltmedia.com <http://www.youthbuiltmedia.com/> . Also joining the protest was 95 year old Don Swergfegger, a retired methodist minister. About l500 leaflets were distributed to people along the parade route and even some parade participants. The leaflet was entitled “Help Protect Veterans & Public Health.” It warned about the dangers of possible DU contamination of the military vehicles in the Hilo parade.
PTA’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Warline Richardson’s words that there would be no mobile weapon systems on military vehicles in todays’ parade turned out to be false Two command Stryker vehicles at the end of the parade (just in front of the ending firetruck) were preceded by several Humvees armed with machine guns. It’s interesting that the Strykers and Humvees were placed at the end of the parade, even though we stated clearly we had no intent of blocking such vehicles. The military obviously did not believe us. They made sure that if we attempted to block the Strykers it would only block them and not the rest of the parade. It should also be noted that members of a right wing citizen group called “The Eagles” were walking as escorts for the Strykers and there were several Hawaii County police on bicycles also acting as a security escort for the Strykers.
The Strykers and Humvees, recently returned from Iraq, are currently training at the PTA in the center of our island home that is officially acknowledged to be contaminated with DU. Hawaii’s Stryker brigade is training for redeployment to either Iraq or Afghanistan. These vehicles participated in the Hilo parade in violation of Army Regulation 700-48 according to Doug Rokke, PH.D. Major, reitred U.S. Army, and Director U.S. Army Depleted Uranium (DU) Project. Rokke says: “Any and all combat vehicles and equipment (everything) returned from Iraq should be prohibited from any civilian area. (including this parade) A standard wash rack is useless for decontamination… Army regulation 700-48, section 2-4 requires isolation from all human contact. Even after extensive depot level cleaning I found DU, and other radiological, chemical and biological contamination in vehicles years later. The gross contamination of equipment, vehicles, terrain, air, water, soil and food is reflected in, and verified by the hundreds of thousands of US casualties with serious medical problems that are unrelated to bullets or bombs, but are directly related to all of these toxic exposures. Hawaii’s isolated and pristine environment should not be exposed to, and consequently placed in danger through, any exposure to any of the contaminants brought back by the US military from war zones.”
All in all, the day of leafleting and protest went very well. There was minimal hostility. The leaflet was crafted to focus on protecting Veterans and Public Health. Who can be against that? We had a very good location for the protest and even many of the vets in the parade gave positive thumbs up signals to many of our signs such as: “No War Surge,” “Protect the Troops from DU,” “Aloha Means Peace,” “Stop the Wars,” and “End Occupations.” Clearly the current wars are not popular even at a veterans parade. And the fact that the Strykers — the modern chariots of empire, had to be placed last in the parade and be under right wind (Eagle) and police escort, was a sign of the military’s unpopular status as occupier of the independent nation of Hawaii.
There will be a peace meeting on Monday, Nov. 9th 7-9PM at the Keaau Community Center. Among items for discussion will be an evaluation of today’s protest and next steps for justice and peace. Please come and bring friends. We need everyone’s mana’o.
Malu ‘Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action
Kurtistown, Hawai’i 96760
Visit us on the web at: www.malu-aina.org <http://www.malu-aina.org>