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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 81° Today's Paper

Hawaii News

Aloha Freedom Coalition plans Waikiki march, supports individuals’ choice for COVID-19 vaccine

The company attempting to organize a 10,000-person march through Waikiki on Saturday has been at the forefront of passionate demonstrations and pointed opposition to the federal, state, and county response to the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that the government’s policies and directives are opaque and do not consider all perspectives and the rights provided Americans by the U.S. Constitution.

According to a news release from the Aloha Freedom Coalition, “many thousands of supporters, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, will march through Waikiki” as part of a worldwide demonstration. AFC supporters are marching and organizing “in response to an unprecedented attack on our civil liberties, we are joining together to promote freedom. In particular: freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly, and health decisions.”

Saturday’s march is the fourth straight organized by the group, which said 5,000 people joined them last week. It is being coordinated with the World Wide Rallies for Freedom &Democracy, a group founded in Kassel, Germany, on the belief that “rights are not privileges” that “stands for peace, freedom and democracy” in more than 45 countries and 150 locations, according to the news release.

“This is a group of concerned Hawaii residents fighting for our jobs, for health autonomy, for our families, our communities and for a Hawaii future steeped in Aloha and not in a ‘Show me your papers’ dictatorship. Expect passionate signs and chanting that reflect our struggle,” read the news release.

Gary Cordery, an AFC manager, said the group is not for or against COVID-19 vaccines, rather, it supports the right of individuals to make decisions for themselves and embrace the ideals of liberty and freedom.

“If someone feels like a vaccine is important to them, then they have the full liberty and right to do so. And there are others that don’t feel that way and they have the right to say ‘no, thank you’,” said Cordery, in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “We’re just saying that people have the right to choose.”

The Aloha Freedom Coalition LLC is a domestic limited liability company incorporated on Oct. 6, 2020, according to the state Department of Commerce &Consumer Affairs.

The business agent’s address is the same as Cordery’s general contracting business, Kingdom Builders. Hella Allerstorfer-Meek, David Hioki, Chris Wikoff and Cordery are listed as managers of the company.

Cordery said AFC was born in the aftermath of William “Bud” Stonebraker’s unsuccessful 2020 bid for Honolulu mayor. Cordery and other supporters who connected with Stonebraker’s message of liberty and freedom wanted a vehicle to continue to push lawmakers to be transparent and inclusive of all ideas while promoting the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

“We didn’t know Bud Stonebraker, but we all heard his message about liberty and freedom,” said Cordery. “Those principles of liberty and freedom for people resonated in me in a way that this is a candidate I could support.”

Stonebraker founded the South Shore Christian Fellowship in 2005 and is the senior pastor of The Ranch Church. He served three terms as a Republican lawmaker in the Hawaii House of Representatives, and finished sixth in the 2020 mayoral race with 17,757 votes. Stonebraker did not immediately return a message left at his church.

At an Aug. 9 rally in opposition to vaccine mandates, Stonebraker told demonstrators that the right way forward is through natural immunity and that failing to fight vaccine mandates will lead to forced vaccinations in the future every two, three, four or six months in order to go to the grocery store.

“If this movement dies, we will not have freedom in Hawaii,” he said. “We will be slaves of the pharmaceutical monster that has been launched on us.”

Hawaii’s large, private employers, including Hawaiian Airlines, the two largest banks and four hospital systems, implemented employment policies similar to the state’s vaccine or test mandate.

On Saturday, supporters are asked to meet at the corner of Kapahulu and Kala­kaua avenues to hear from “community leaders from the small business and healthcare sectors” who will discuss “concerns about the latest mandates as well as revealing information about Hawaii’s questionable state of emergency,” according to the news release.

“The scheduled march through Waikiki has not received a permit from the city and law enforcement will be present to monitor the situation to ensure all applicable laws are followed and roadways are not impeded,” said Tim Sakahara, Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s communications director. “First Amendment rights are important for us all and they will be allowed to proceed as long as roadways are not impeded.”

Honolulu police did not respond to a question about how they would monitor the group. Cordery said he has had a respectful dialogue with police and is in “constant communication” with them to discuss demonstrations before they begin.

“HPD is aware of the event and will be there,” said Sarah Yoro, an HPD spokeswoman.

AFC has employed aggressive messaging on homemade signs waved around at rallies and social media posts, at times targeting Gov. David Ige, Lt. Gov. Josh Green, Blangiardi, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Packs of AFC supporters demonstrated outside of Green’s condo, prompting him to urge the group to leave his neighbors out of political protests and to meet him at the state Capitol.

AFC members and supporters have dedicated the group’s Instagram page to posts that are anti-vaccine mandates, passports and rules enforcing the use of a mask. Ige, Green and Blangiardi have been featured in AFC’s critical messaging.

One of the social media posts feature a video of Green captured through a restaurant window, dining at a campaign event with vaccinated donors. The caption reads “Josh the freedom warriors always know where you are.”

Another features apparel created by the group. A white T-shirt with a black and white photo of Ige, highlighted with yellow in places, with a yellow banner stripped across the bottom with “TYRANT” in red letters sits next to a grey T-shirt featuring the Jun. 18 image of Green. “What to wear at freedom rally?,” is the caption.

When asked about the attack ads, Cordery said he supports however people choose to express themselves as long as profanity and vulgarity are not used. One of AFC’s aims is to motivate government officials to be “responsible and available to the people.”

“Currently they are not. You cannot talk to legislators, you cannot see them face to face, they don’t return our calls,” said Cordery. “They are indifferent to our conversations. We don’t want to be blown off just because we don’t agree.”

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