Support for the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd swelled in Honolulu on Saturday as thousands marched peacefully from Ala Moana Beach Park to the state Capitol.
The march represents the state’s largest of a handful of demonstrations in Honolulu over the past week or so calling for justice for the black community. One organizer estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 people participated, but the organizers’ Instagram account said there could have been as many as 20,000.
Floyd, 46, was killed May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, who have since been charged in his death.
One of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was charged with second-degree murder. Chauvin restrained Floyd by putting his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.
There was also focus on Breonna Taylor, 26, who was shot and killed by police in her Louisville, Ky., home March 13. Last Friday would have been her 27th birthday.
Like the previous marches and protests in Honolulu, Saturday’s was peaceful.
Solidarity was again a strong theme for the march.
Ashley Dee, who helped with previous demonstrations, spoke to the crowd prior to the march about police brutality against the black community.
“Stop allowing people around you to tell you that this isn’t their problem. Newsflash: If they love our music, it’s their problem. … If they love to copy the styles of our hair … it’s their problem,” she said.
Imai Winchester, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner, said Hawaiians were there to support the movement.
“We are here as kanaka maoli to stand with you, to stand with all of our brothers and sisters who face the same oppression, who face the same violence, who face the same type of discrimination every single day,” he said.
The diversity of the marchers was on display Saturday.
Some participants were dressed in traditional Hawaiian or Native American clothing. Others were carrying rainbow flags representing the LGBTQ community while holding signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
A sign with a painting of a panda on it said, “He’s black! He’s white! He’s Asian! Seek racial harmony. Be like a panda.”
Lynnae Lawrence is Hopi and Assiniboine — also known as Nakota — and was with her family members. Her husband and grandsons were wearing Native American pow wow dance clothing.
“My two grandsons are half black, and they both were asking what (they) can do to show solidarity with all of our black relatives,” Lawrence said. “Native people have suffered at the hands of colonizers for centuries. … There’s still several ongoing battles where we are also trying to save our people and sacred sites.”
Honolulu police directed traffic at several intersections, allowing groups of marchers to cross streets as they made their way to the Capitol. They chanted and waved signs as vehicles passed by, and many drivers honked in support of the movement.
Dozens of state sheriffs and police officers were present at the Capitol and along the route from the beach, but were not needed for enforcement.
At the Capitol, the marchers sat as members of Hawaii’s black community discussed the current uprising against discrimination against the black community.
Ken Lawson, a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson Law School, was one of those speakers.
“When we watched that man put his knee on brother George Floyd’s neck … he looked at that camera like ‘N****, I’m going to kill you.’ And that’s the look that black men have seen for years. … Black men, black women — you all know exactly what I’m talking about,” Lawson said.
Joy Enomoto, who is African American and Native Hawaiian, said, “I’ve never seen so much beautiful, passionate love for black lives in the Hawaiian kingdom as I do right now.”
Enomoto further supported the idea that the struggles of the black community connected to the struggles of the community as a whole.
“Our struggles are not separate. … I am not free until we are all free. My struggle is your struggle. My liberation is your liberation. I cannot be free without you,” she said.
Youth once again dominated the march, and its core organizers are students from different high schools.
Desiree Burton, one of the march’s student organizers and speakers, said the turnout for the march was a surprise.
“We thought we were only going to have 500 people, but this is overwhelming in a great way. We’re glad that our voices are being heard and that we’re not alone,” she said. “Our generation is the ‘change generation,’ and I’m happy everyone came to support us.”
Burton, who was at the march with her mother, said she had been planning with the core organizers since Monday.
“We were doing Zoom calls day and night, and we were staying on the phone for like five hours. … We were trying to do so much in such a little time, but it turned out so much better than we thought. … It was nerve-wracking,” she said.
The organizers encouraged participants to vote during this year’s elections. More events are being planned.
Social media posts Saturday showed hundreds attending a rally for Floyd, with people holding signs along Kaahumanu Avenue in Kahului. On Kauai, hundreds paddled out and gathered in a large circle in the ocean in a rally for Floyd.
On the Big Island, about 600 demonstrated by holding signs protesting racism and supporting Black Lives Matter.
On Friday, roughly 1,000 marchers rallied from Ala Moana Beach Park to the Duke Kahanamoku statue in Waikiki calling for justice for African Americans.
The Star-Advertiser’s Cassie Ordonio and Dennis Oda contributed to this story.