Revolution #251, November 27, 2011
Correspondence from Hawai`i
Marching Against the APEC Summit
From November 7 to 13, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held their Leaders' Summit in Honolulu, Hawai`i. APEC, with 21 member countries, has been historically dominated by the U.S. imperialists. Its role has been to pry open the economies of oppressed countries in the Asia-Pacific region to foreign investment and control, and give imperialist powers and transnational corporations the "right" to take whatever they want. There were various kinds of protest and resistance against the APEC summit. The following is correspondence from a Revolution Books Honolulu staff person.
Saturday, November 12, 4 pm: More than 300 people crowded around a big tent set up by World Can't Wait in Honolulu's Old Stadium Park, where the march to the APEC Leaders' Summit was to begin. Some grabbed paint brushes and hastily painted messages on cardboard. Others held signs along the street, energized by the constant honking of motorists passing by. Many were nervously talking about what might happen when they marched into the heart of Waikiki—or whether a non-permitted march would even be allowed to begin. A group appropriated a shopping cart, strapped their drums to it, and began drumming. A group of Vietnamese immigrants staged their own pre-march rally next to the tent. Dozens of local, national and international journalists milled through the crowd, interviewing protesters.
The crowd was the most diverse I'd ever seen assembled in Hawai`i, and signs reflected that diversity. A group of Okinawans carried a banner condemning the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (a trade agreement modeled after NAFTA). A Vietnamese contingent condemned China's incursion over Vietnam's boundaries in the South China Sea. Representatives from Rapanui and Auteroa joined Hawaiian independence activists opposed to APEC's capitalistic vision, and called for cooperation between Pacific nations and respect for their cultures. Every sign was different: "APEC = Poverty," "People Before Profits," "APEC is the 1%," "Capitalism Sucks—We Need a Revolution," "Justice for Kollin Elderts!" (Elderts was killed by a federal agent the day the summit opened), and hundreds more.
The entire area was surrounded by police. "Civil Affairs" officers, dressed in aloha shirts bulked up by bullet-proof vests and concealed weapons, attempted to chat it up with protesters. A line of uniformed bike cops lined the perimeter. Uniformed patrolmen stationed across the street stood with tripod-mounted cameras photographing the crowd.
As ABC television went live at 4 pm, a World Can't Wait organizer jumped onto the park wall and yelled "mic check." After a rousing call to show the world that Hawai`i stands with people of the world against APEC's destructive policies, the march was off to an energetic start.
As the march approached the bridge leading into Waikiki, the police suddenly blocked the intersection and said the route we were using was "unsafe." While they attempted to re-route the march, protesters at the front surged past them and continued to the bridge. The crowd followed. Chants bounced off the 30-story condos lining the boulevard entering Waikiki. Looking up on either side, you could see people on their outdoor lanais and waving. More joined the march and the numbers began to swell.
As the march got near Fort DeRussy (a military base/park/hotel complex near the entrance of Waikiki), the tropical scenery abruptly changed. The six-lane boulevard fronting Fort DeRussy was eerily silent and void of traffic. A three-mile-long, 10-foot-high cyclone fence covered with black tarping hid the entire base from view. Police in riot gear, soldiers shouldering automatic weapons, Humvees, and concrete barriers formed a line in front of the fence. Behind the tarp barrier, lines of riot police and military personnel remained hidden from view. In spite of all of the talk of turning Hawai`i into a police state, most people on the march were shocked by the enormity of the measures taken to "welcome APEC to Hawai`i." As one Waikiki resident described it, "They 'beautified' the highway from the airport, but they turned Waikiki into Beirut."
The march proceeded to the point closest to the Hale Koa, the military hotel where President Obama was hosting the final APEC Summit Leaders' Dinner one-third of a mile away. Chants and drumming echoed from the walls of high-rises lining the street, and tourists later reported hearing them fully a mile away. At one point someone yelled "mic check" and a rally was held on the spot. Not wanting the evening to end, the group marched deeper into Waikiki as small shopkeepers came out to applaud them along the way, and tourists gave a thumbs up. The march surged across the main street through Waikiki and occupied a park, where another impromptu rally was held.
Unknown to the protesters, while they were protesting outside, Makana (a noted Hawai`i musician) was entertaining the APEC leaders at the dinner. Midway through his gig he pulled back his jacket Superman style, revealing a "Support Occupy" T-shirt and launched into his new protest ballad, "We Are the Many." News of his courageous action, initially concealed by the government's media pool, hit the news a day later in a press release sent out by the YesMen, along with images taken on a concealed phone.
The months leading up to the final day of the APEC Summit had been intense. There had been forums, protests, workshops, conferences and talks. But on November 5, two days before the summit was to begin, the reality of what it meant to live in a city armed to the teeth to insulate the leaders of 21 countries and more than 60 corporate CEOs against anticipated protests hit hard when APEC Security Agent Christopher Deedy shot and killed 23-year-old Kollin Elderts, a Hawai`i resident who was standing in line at McDonald's.
Hawai`i residents reacted with shock and outrage. That was amplified when the U.S. State Department and the Honolulu Police Department refused to release details about the murder, released Deedy on $250,000 bail, and delayed court proceedings until the APEC Summit was over. World Can't Wait-Hawai`i sent out a call to protest, and within 24 hours about 100 people marched to the Convention Center where the APEC Conference was beginning, and then on to the McDonald's where Kollin had been murdered. The struggle for justice for Kollin Eldert is just beginning.
In the Wake of the Summit
The APEC Summit is now over. For many people, APEC merely meant traffic jams, inconveniences, and an atmosphere of fear and intimidation as the island was transformed into an armed camp. For the homeless it meant relentless police sweeps and harassment. For civil libertarians it has meant new regulations limiting access to public spaces. But the real effect of the APEC meeting on the people of the world is only just beginning to be discussed and understood.
The entire APEC Summit was shrouded in secrecy, and high-level meetings were off-limits to most journalists. Nonetheless, Obama has already announced that APEC was successful in establishing the framework for a "Trans-Pacific Partnership," modeled after NAFTA, and is proceeding at breakneck speed to finalize a binding treaty within a year. Hillary Clinton has boasted that the Summit has strengthened intellectual property and patenting rights. And in the wake of APEC, Obama is revealing U.S. plans for a major military build-up in the Pacific.
While city and state government officials are crowing about the meeting's success in establishing Honolulu as the future destination for international meetings such as the WTO, IMF or the G20, new conversations among the people are beginning to take root. The relationship between the government and corporations is being discussed and dissected. The role of the police and other government enforcers is being fiercely debated. Concepts like "free trade" and "deregulation" are becoming demystified. That hundreds of people found the courage to protest, some very creatively, in the face of intense police state intimidation has given many hope. The Occupy movement is creating new breathing space for these conversations to intensify, even as we continue to wrangle over what it's going to take for people to be truly liberated and to save the planet.
Through the course of the past months, Revolution Books has increasingly become a center of discussion and debate. Its forums on APEC have been broadcast on community television, and new people have come in to find out more about imperialist globalization. Hundreds of copies of Revolution's Special Issue #244 on BAsics, the "Don't Talk" pamphlet, and Raymond Lotta's talk "Are Corporations Corrupting the System...or is the Problem the System of Capitalism?" have been distributed. Customers we've never met before are asking about socialism/communism, and are seriously comparing it with the horrors of capitalism. Homeless people are discussing quotes from BAsics. People who thought they knew all about Marxism are digging into Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage: A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and the new synthesis of communism being brought forward by Bob Avakian. A recent customer exemplified this new openness when he said: "I'm a capitalist businessman and I thought you were the boogie man so I never came in, but there has to be a better system than this." He purchased The Constitution for a New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, Raymond Lotta's series "Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy" and BAsics... and said he'd be back.
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