Roughly 400 hundred activists gathered outside of secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations being conducted at the Westin Hotel on Maui to call for a stop to the global capitalist trade deal, which protesters say is a corporate assault on both people and planet. The TPP is part of the TPP-TISA-TTIP mega-treaty package, which aims to lower tariffs between involved nations and to lock-in international rules designed to benefit large corporations and banks.
The gathering opened with a pule, a Hawaiian prayer, rooting the event in indigenous culture and concerns. The protesters then sounded hundreds of pū (Hawaiian conch shells) as a symbolic gesture of spreading awareness about the dangers of the TPP. Event organizer Trinette Furtado said that in blowing the pū, “we are putting out a mighty kahea (call), past the shorelines of Maui, to connect with others standing up for their ‘āina (land) and people.”
Following the sounding of the conch, protesters began to sing “I Ku Mau Mau” (“Stand Up Together”) up and down the beach. Long-time Native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte spoke to the crowd saying, “This is nothing new we’re talking about today. It’s nothing new for us Hawaiians. We don’t need another layer of colonialism and bureaucracy. We had the sugar and pineapple barons, now we have the chemical-GMO barons and the tourist industry. We don’t need anymore. It’s pilau, pilau, pilau (rotten).”
Furtado similarly called the TPP, “an affront to the sovereignty of all of us as individuals, and also an affront to Hawaiian sovereignty.”
The demonstration emphasized the connection between, and convergence of, the issues of social justice, labor, indigenous rights, environmental stewardship and human rights. The ongoing call-to-action is supported by many individuals and activist groups, including Kāko’o Haleakalā, AiKea, Sierra Club, UNITE HERE! Local 5, KAHEA: Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A), Babes Against Biotech, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, Kai Palaoa, Hawaii Center for Food Safety, Hawai’i SEED, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, ‘Ohana O Kaua’i, Occupy Wall Street Maui, Public Citizen, Flush the TPP, Friends of the Earth, Shaka Movement, Popular Resistance, MoveOn, CREDO and SumOfUs.
Several of these activists asserted the need for charting new pathways in international relations based on human solidarity, raising the well-being of all, and maintaining local democracy and sovereignty.
Global justice activist Andrea Brower said, “We aren’t opposed to trade, and we aren’t opposed to international cooperation. What we are opposed to is economic imperialism-the writing of the rules of the global economy in order to serve solely the most dominant financial interests, always at the expense of the poorest.”
Connecting the TPP to the defining global challenges of climate change and inequality, Marti Townsend, Director of the Hawai’i Sierra Club, said: “Signing a deal that would restrict governments from taking action on climate change, gut environmental protections, and increase poverty all at the same time is an injustice that will haunt generations to come.”
Cade Watanabe of the union UNITE HERE Local 5 added, “Workers around the world are hurting. We need agreements that lift living standards for all, not drive them down so that big business can make another buck.”
Former Minister of Agriculture in Japan, Masahiko Yamada, shared how he had been fighting the TPP over its five years of secretive negotiation, and explained how it would also hurt farmers and workers in his country. The crowd rallied behind him in chants of international solidarity: “Stop TPP” and “gambaro!,” or “let’s do it!” in Japanese.
Lorilani Keohokalole-Torio spoke from her indigenous ancestral connection to Hawai’i, “Behind me stands my ancestors and my ‘ohana (family). We are not aligned with people coming in and restructuring how we live. It hurts my na’au, my gut. We are fed up, we are educated, we are empowered, and we are aligned to help this place, mother earth, regain the strength that she wants back.”
Interestingly, there has been very little media coverage of the demonstration. An Associated Press article was reprinted by the Star-Advertiser and Maui Now posted an article as well.
Photo courtesy SumOfUs