Web Exclusive: Differing Views at Statehood Ceremony

Wednesday, March 18 kicked off the first of several official statehood ceremonies celebrating 50 years as the 50th U.S. state. House and Senate members at the State Capitol honored the date 50 years ago when President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Hawaii Admissions Act, which inducted Hawaii into statehood less than six months later.

Patriotic tunes filled the Capitol rotunda as the Pacific Fleet Band performed, later two F-15 fighters from the Hawaii Air National Guard conducting a flyover as local and tourist attendees looked skyward.

The ceremony inside the House chamber included speeches from House Speaker Calvin Say, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and Gov. Linda Lingle as well as musical performances by Danny Couch and Arshiel Calatrava, a Kalakaua Middle School student. Past Hawaii governors, legislators, current judges and justices attended the event as well as participants from the “50 Voices” campaign. The campaign began last summer and will continue until August with television and radio announcements.

While the mood and formal speeches in the packed chamber were positive and nostalgic of that historic day 50 years ago, not everyone at the capitol found reason to celebrate. A group of about 20 people—of all ages and ethnicities—gathered on the steps by the statue of Queen Liliuokalani. Known as the Anti-Statehood Hui, the members led a quite protest; letting the bright green felt letters on their black T-shirts do the talking. Surrounded by people holding the Hawaiian flag, red and black banners proclaiming “Hawaiian Independence” the group formed to spell “fake state,” and “a history of theft!”

The group does not support the Akaka bill but still believes that the U.S. government should relinquish its occupation of Hawaii.

In a perhaps symbolic juxtaposition, the group remained on one side of the capitol while the military band played on the other side, until the Anti-Statehood Hui walked to the opposite end to form phrases with their T-shirts again to cars passing by on Beretania Street.

As legislative members expected the protest, the differing opinions were even highlighted in Gov. Lingle’s speech, remarking that she welcomed the opposing viewpoints to the state’s 50th anniversary, making Hawaii a unique melting pot. In fact, the “50 Voices” campaign includes Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell, who is openly opposed to statehood.

Despite a small interruption from one of the hui’s members inside the chamber—by in fact, the member we spoke to—the ceremony went off without a hitch. The next statehood events will be held this summer leading up to the Aug. 21.

For more on the ceremony click on the video below.