Protests against cruise ship heat up

Walter Ritte sets up a group shot of the protestors shortly before they go into action.

Video of the protestors at Kaunakakai Wharf — click here

The calm of Thursday morning at Kaunakakai Harbor was broken with the sound of a conch shell announcing the coming of the day to all four directions.

This was soon followed by the sound of an amplified bullhorn and about 30 protesters yelling in unison at the docked cruise ship, the Safari Explorer: “Cruise ship, go home!”

Organizer and local activist Walter Ritte gave instructions to the protesters to not harass the 36 or so passengers aboard the 145-foot vessel, described as an “upscale yacht.”

Protestors against the Young Brothers fence at Kaunakakai Harbor made their message loud and clear: "cruise ships, go home!"

Ritte did go on to say that the boat operator and its crew, however, were fair game. He also explained how 30-40 protest signs are now being plastered along the east side of Molokai to let the tour know its feelings.

American Safari Cruises, an Alaska-based company, has been planning what it calls “cultural tours” on Molokai for several years. While company representatives have been working closely with Molokai businesses and individuals for several years, they never received the approval of the Molokai `Aha Ki`ole, a legitimate, state-recognized council has been charged to work with the Department of Land and Natural Resources on local land and water management issues.

While ASC CEO Dan Blanchard said that his company never intended to bypass local protocol, protesters question his willingness to really work with the community. When representatives of the `Aha Ki`ole asked ASC to postpone its first visit on Oct. 29 and 30, the tour only delayed its plans by one day. This action brought out the first protest on Oct. 30.

The Safari Explorer docked at Kaunakakai Harbor Thursday morning.

“We gave him ample time to cancel the first one so we could talk and he chose not to, because business is more important than this community,” said Loretta Ritte, Walter’s wife and a longtime activist in the community.

The `Aha Ki`ole and other local kupuna had scheduled a meeting on Oct. 25 to meet with Blanchard at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center. Blanchard did not show but instead attended a meeting planned by local supporters of the tour on Oct. 29.

Mervin Dudoit, `Aha Ki`ole representative for the moku that covers the area from Kaunakakai to Kamalo, said that all he wanted from the beginning was a public meeting to determine the community’s desire.

According to Dudoit, he approached Teri Waros, owner of the Kalele Book Store and one of the supporters of the ASC tour, to find out about holding a meeting. “I told Teri (we wanted a) community meeting, and whatever the community decides then we’ll go by that, but she told me, ‘no need.’ Now, I’m really against this thing coming in.”

“I talked to guy Dan (Blanchard),” Uncle Merv continued, “and he said he liked to call meeting with us, `Aha Ki`ole. He like calling, we no like him calling meeting, we wanted to call the meeting. Last time he came in Sunday said he wanted to meet on Monday, I said, ‘no way, let me talk to the `Aha Ki`ole first;’ it’s not just going to happen like that.”

“ I feel somewhere along the line a communication error happened,” said Clare Mawae, operator of Molokai Outdoors, a local company that is providing ground transportation for the tours. “I hope communication will occur and we can discuss a process and have a process put in place on how we handle the visitor industry on this island.”

Uncle Merv and others feel it’s not so simple.

“What will come in the back of this ship?” Uncle Merv asks. “There are several boats that are even bigger. A little bit bigger than this can (come into the harbor), get up to even 80 on a boat, a regular thing coming in. I’m afraid of that because more tourists come in we’re going to end up just like Lahaina. You know Lahaina Harbor used to be fishermen. But they threw them all out because they had nothing to do with tourism.”

“He was talking to our people,” said protestor and former Maui County mayoral candidate Patricia Hammond about Blanchard. “It was just not in the context that our kupuna are used to and it’s not the protocol that our island historically goes through … This was a sneak attack, another overthrow. Queen Liliuokalani was taken down by seven or eight business members. The same thing is happening here. Seven or eight business members took it upon themselves to make a huge plan for Molokai, which very well could end up with bigger boats coming in.”

Walter Ritte blows the conch shell to announce the arrival of the protest.

Hammond believes the protest should focus not on Blanchard — “who is a guy just doing business like you or me” — but on the local businesses that tried to bring this in. “This boycott needs to be geared toward those few companies that are here among us,” she said.

“I have nothing personal against this boat or the passengers,” said protestor Kamalu Poepoe, a sixth grade teacher in the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program at Kualapuu Elementary School. “What I fear is that this boat will be the door opening for out of control growth. We’ve seen that happen to the other islands when the growth gets out of control.”

“We work very hard at keeping that Molokai feel,” Poepoe continued, “so it would be devastating if we suddenly had too much happening, too much growth. It would have been more respectful for the business community not to take care of their own desires but to meet with the rest of the community because they know that’s how we feel.”

Currently, the `Aha Ki`ole is conducting a community survey of its members in regards to this cruise ship. Early returns are showing a majority does not support the tours, but the final results are not yet in.

“I like the survey to tell us more,” said Uncle Merv. “Then we gonna figure out what we’re really going to do.”


13 Responses

  1. Where is the balance in this article? Quoting Patricia Hammond in her statement really can not compare….Big difference, small businesses to that of greedy men in the 1800’s ..Don’t think so…Time to move on and come to the community meeting and watch for the announcements in the coming weeks to get a balanced overview of what this project is all about….

    In times of economic hardship worldwide, businesses closing, programs getting cut, perhaps the viewpoint should shift where the digestion of the company’s mission statement should be seen as a blessing… Molokai has taken so many hits with many people laid off and businesses closing down…and here we have a positive and healthy boost into the economics that reaches and branches out to so many in the community..

  2. Perhaps the Aha Kiole failed to mention that they were contacted in the first week of September so that there could be many weeks of dialogue. They chose to ignore it….The fact that members of the Aha Kiole knew about this project long before most of the businesses came on board should also be mentioned…

    The fact that the small businesses are being blamed only shows that the Aha Kiole failed to recognize their responsibility and not being totally truthful to their members. Perhaps the Aha Kiole need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for their own actions and not be quick to blame others for their lack of action.

  3. Aha Kiole could be a good community organization. However, to be fair I want to know what you have to offer for the community in the way of jobs? Do you have a plan for creating jobs?What do you have for getting drugs out of this community which is hitting our families hard? What are you doing about domestic violence which is on the rise? What are you doing to help the homeless that is starting to hit our own people? What are you doing to make this a better community so we can feed our families? Jobs are limited, there is no economic base.There are some people who in our community who do not qualify for public assistence by a few dollars, what are you doing about that, how are you helping those people?
    This is a FREE country and the last I heard business can chose what they want to do to support their families and other families within the law of the United States. You the protestor have a right to speak your thoughts and this is America it is not a Middle Eastern country where they shoot you and jail you when you speak your MANAO.
    What about the wanna bees, what are you doing to help people in our community who are in need of food and roof over their head?
    The bottem line people in this community need JOBS and feed their families. People in this community talk about their children having to leave Molokai, well there are no jobs, it is so limited……..
    To the people in our community come out and support the visitors with signs and stand by the Pizza Cafe WHARF ROAD the next time the visitor comes into Molokai and WELCOME THEM!

    • I love your comments Molokai Wahine….One of these days I hope we can meet.. The boat is due in on Saturday 26th November….so perhaps this will be a perfect opportunity to adjust the schedule so the people can visit the Farmer’s market….then let us see how our small businesses feel…a time to celebrate perhaps…??

  4. it’s my opinion that both supporters and protestors AGREE on at least one thing- NO CRUISE SHIPS.

    it seems unfair to refer to this tiny vessel as a cruise ship though.

    hearing the safari explorer was being called a cruise ship prompted a friend of moloka’i who resides in the u.k. to send me this link-

    i can just imagine this lil’ buggah making its way up the boat ramp at k’kai harbor.

    maybe if supporters made it clear that they too would not support capt. stubing and the love boat mooring on moloka’i they could make some progress.

    • Love the link…yes just imagine that coming up the ramp at Kaunakakai….Looks like there will be a meeting on November 30th…for all those unanswered questions..

  5. Where is the ALOHA and the PONO?
    Still using racism remarks.
    Cutting down trees across the road so people can not get by,NOT thinking of others if there is emergency on eastend?
    Driving boats reckless in the water with children and NO life vests?
    Taking food off our tables
    The WANABEES who come here and try to hard to become local?
    Pray for them, and love them……….

  6. […] Molokaiwahine on Protests against cruise ship h…Bev on Kualapu’u wins ‘Best Project’ …T Scott on Kualapu’u receives […]

  7. […] The sign-waving protests began on the Safari Explorer’s first visit on Oct. 30. They continued on Nov. 10 when the boat made its second visit. […]

  8. […] Center in its move toward gaining greater local control of cultural and natural resources. Recent protests of a small-scale tourism operation, American Safari Cruises, provided the impetus for the organizational efforts of the local ‘Aha. […]

  9. […] and successfully blocked the Safari Explorer from docking at Kaunakakai on Nov. 26, 2011 following several land-based protests. The initial concern was that this new boat had failed to follow Molokai protocol in seeking […]

  10. I drop a comment whenever I appreciate a post on a blog or if I have something to contribute to the conversation.
    It is triggered by the sincerness communicated in the post I browsed.
    And after this post Protests against cruise ship heat up | Molokainews’s Blog. I was actually moved enough to drop a thought 😉 I do have 2 questions for you if you tend not to mind. Could it be simply me or do some of these responses look like they are left by brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are posting on other online sites, I’d like
    to keep up with everything new you have to post.
    Would you list every one of all your community sites like your twitter feed,
    Facebook page or linkedin profile?

    • Thank you for your supportive comment but I’m not sure what you mean by “brain dead individuals?” I believe the comments to be thoughtful and sincere. I occasionally sell freelance pieces but I do NOT post on any other online site — A Hui Hou! DL.

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