Thursday, January 8, 2009


FERRETING OUT THE TRUTH: Leave it to a mainland outsider to come in and start asking questions to raise some hackles and renew some old, ahem, disagreements.

Seems that a student from New York City is here in the island nosing around about a question that caused some fierce disagreements during the run up to the Superferry operation on Maui and the lack thereof here on Kaua`i- why is the ferry running to Maui and not Kaua`i and what happened to make the difference?

Yesterday Joan Conrow published- pretty much in whole- the perspective of Karen Chun of Maui which is an interesting read. But it barely addresses what the student, Michelle Nitafan of the Department of Geography at NYC’s Hunter College really wants to know about for her master’s thesis (and an article by her professor).

Chun gives a perspective that more or less makes it seem like it was just a matter of two different circumstances on two different islands. citing culture, demographics and the differences in legal approaches with a lawsuit filed on Maui but not here

We won’t repeat the letter here but urge anyone reading this to read Chun’s letter for a better understanding of what Nitafan is likely to hear if she speaks to the so-called “leaders” on Maui.

In fact what made the difference was a concerted effort on the part of those Maui “leaders” to ban all non-violent civil disobedience (NVCD) at “their” demonstrations when the ferry came to Maui.

Juxtapose that with the Kaua`i concerted effort by a few activists to not preclude NVCD and not tell people what to do or don’t do- and do it in the face of attempts to “lead” the protests in a “legal and respectful manner” by organizations a politicians here on Kaua`i

Seems Nitafan and her professor wrote to Superferry activist Jimmy Trujillo after finding his name prominently in newspapers from the time and wrote the following

My name is Michelle Nitafan. I'm a post-graduate student working with the Geography Department at Hunter College of the City University of New York. I'm currently doing some thesis work in regards to the recent Super Ferry issue there.

My research is concerned with the discussion (and if I'm lucky, with a resolution) of why the Environmental Assessment was waived why Kauai and Maui took different steps in opposing the Super Ferry (strike through a surfing blockade at sea and court petition, respectively) how the different islands felt about it, then and now... I'm interested in gaining insight into Kauai's position in all this.

But the problem is that she is apparently speaking with most of the very people who almost thwarted the non-violent civil disobedience and lack of respect for Governor Lingle’s “Unified Command” that made for the difference in outcomes between Kaua`i and Maui.

Although some would like to believe that it was through the efforts of people like Rich Hoepner of People for the Preservation of Kaua`i (PPK) and David Dinner of 1000 Friends and politicians like JoAnn Yukimura and Mina Motrita that the protesters stopped the Superferry, those are in fact the very people who tried hard- and fortunately failed- to corral Kaua`i people into keeping all protests “legal and respectful”.

It was no accident though that people like Trujillo, Katy Rose, PNN and a handful of others- including many actual members of PPK and 1000 friends who were less than happy about the direction their leaders were taking- that the “message” on Kaua`i was not to listen to self appointed “leaders” here who were publicly urging the “legal and respectful” protest and instead urge people, through email and the grassroots “coconut wireless”, to “do your own thing” by refusing to condemn or try to prohibit NVCD.

And that was the difference in turning back the ferry here. It wasn’t the people who spent months gathering petitions or meeting night after night to plot strategy but it was the people who just showed up and felt they had the freedom to put their lives on the line by physically blocking the big bad boat and thumbing their nose at the state’s militaristic threats.

Apparently, from emails sent to PNN, the people Nitafan is thus far scheduled to meet with are people like Dinner, Yukimura- who fiercely fought for legal and respectful protest, especially at the Convention Hall appearance when Lingle was cursed and shouted down- and Irene Bowie Executive Director of Maui Tomorrow who was the chief of the “no illegal or disrespectful activity” at `our’ protest” on that island

Was it just the circumstances that Chun- who actually did get into her canoe and try to block the boat on Maui along with people like Hannah Bernard and a small handful of others- cited that led to things just “happening” as they did?

Or did the concerted efforts of a handful of Kaua`i people- experienced organizers who saw early on the pent up hostility to the ferry on the streets of Kaua`i and saw the probably that an organized leadership could actually hurt the chances of involvement by an already agitated populace- pay off.

After reading Chun’s essay at Conrow’s KauaiEcletic blog Rose put it this way in an email today.

I'm a little concerned that Nitafan isn't talking to more grassroots people who have deeper roots on Kaua`i.

A lot of malahini (like me) like to get out front and get in the limelight when in reality the young folks with the deep roots were the ones who stopped the boat right there with their bodies. I just hope that some of the people she sought out to talk to have the humility to direct her to the real heroes and heroines of August 26 and 27...
The fact is, by a large margin, the folks in the water never came to any of our haole-dominated organizing meetings where people with big egos blathered on for hours! And it's the people [from] those meetings who are "interpreting" the struggle for this research assistant!"

Both Rose and we have attempted to contact Nitafan by phone in Rose’s case and email in ours and we have not heard back from her. She is scheduled to be on KKCR Radio to speak about her project as we go to press, at 4 p.m. today.

It’s nice to know that someone is questioning what the difference was between Kaua`i and Maui and why the outcomes were so different. It would be a shame to see history written so that no one would see the real story behind the blockade here and the lack of one on Maui.

Many see it as a matter of the fact that Maui took the legal approach with Maui Tomorrow and the Sierra Club’s lawsuit where there was no such suit at the time from Kaua`i.

As a matter of fact that the ruling that the lawsuit only covered Maui Harbor and not Kaua`i had not been determined in the Supreme Court ruling made two days before the ferry attempted to enter Nawiliwili harbor and wasn’t a “fact” until the circuit court ruled such on Maui after the SC sent it to them for adjudication..

Yet they mistakenly say that was a factor if not the main reason why many here chose to put their lives in danger, saying that Kaua`i had no lawsuit of its own and so were less inclined to “legal” protest.

But really it comes down to the fact that many of those who were less involved in “organizations” and “meetings” and more into an anarchical style of grassroots organizing saw the obstacle as being the timidity of those organized leaders and worked hard to counteract it by not condemning- and in fact in some cases encouraging- civil disobedience.

They refused to “join up” with those who sought to control of what happened at the Nawiliwili those two fateful nights and it was their efforts that gave “permission” for it to happen that way.

It’s one thing to rabble rouse and organize and whip up a frenzied protest. It’s quite another to just let it happen.


awolgov said...

"But really it comes down to the fact that many of those who were less involved in “organizations” and “meetings” and more into an anarchical style of grassroots organizing saw the obstacle as being the timidity of those organized leaders and worked hard to counteract it by not condemning- and in fact in some cases encouraging- civil disobedience.

They refused to “join up” with those who sought to control of what happened at the Nawiliwili those two fateful nights and it was their efforts that gave “permission” for it to happen that way."

You hit the nail on the head.
Well said, Andy, thatʻs it in a nutshell.
It is partially, too, because of the fact that our Senator Hooser was informed of the perceivable peril to Kauai as early on as late 2004 provided through an informal EIS creating a ʻvisual scenarioʻ of what was to come. This was Ccʻd to Yukimura after which it was front page.

So, Kauai had a simmering period well before Maui; it had grown some small roots and already started to sprout before Maui.

Itʻs also an attitude of automatic acceptance of things to come on Maui whereas Kauai has taken the reins on what occurs, a lot to do with people unafraid to be ʻso-called rudeʻ when testifying, like you Andy.

Mauibrad said...

It definitely made the difference that the actions at Nawiliwili were not organized...they were spontaneous.

Also, Maui did not have the people (except for maybe 1 or 2) who were willing to put their bodies on the line.

Maui was also at a disadvantage in that it is hard to do something exactly as somebody else has already done before. If they tried to copy the same thing, it would have been ineffective.

awolgov said...

Maybe Maui is already comatose from Lingleʻs hand in furthering the demise of the island when she was mayor; they donʻt have the ability to see the island as it should or could be anymore. Pretty soon itʻll be a cesspool ghetto like Oahu.
They just beaten down. Hopelessly overwhelmed.
I guess thatʻs what weʻve tried to prevent in Kauai, when things get fast-tracked and it all hits at once.
But I remember when that ferry ʻshowboatedʻ for us and we all walked on it to be wooed by the technology...ha! what a laugh in retrospect. But also, the flagship boat (is that the right word?) was not the same as whatʻs rockin back and forth now.

Andy Parx said...

I’m not sure Nunya that there were any less number of people on Maui. We didn’t know how many or even if people would show up here or what they would do. But there was heavy promotion in the papers and media that the “organizers of the protest” on Maui were telling people to stay home if they were planning on NVCD.

Don’t forget – our protesters were not the usual activists like you or me but regular people, many of the young and local (as opposed to we older haoles) and they exist on Maui but were just plain told not to show their faces whereas many here worked hard against that kind of message