Protests block tour boat from docking, temporarily

| November 28, 2011 | 17 Comments

The Safari Explorer docked at Kaunakakai Harbor Sunday after being turned away by protestors the previous day.


Using techniques borrowed from the Superferry protesters on Kauai, a small group of local activists successfully turned away the Safari Explorer cruise yacht as it attempted to enter the Kaunakakai Harbor early Saturday morning.

However, the 145-foot boat carrying about 30 passengers, “snuck” back into the harbor on Sunday, according to protest organizer Walter Ritte.

The action on Saturday represented the third time in the past month that locals have protested the arrival of the American Safari Cruises boat. With 14 protestors in two boats and on surfboards, this was the first time the group had attempted to block the boat from docking. After a 90-minute standoff, ship captain and CEO of ASC, Dan Blanchard decided to reroute the ship to Lanai.

When the boat arrived back in Kaunakakai on Sunday, it was greeted by supporters of the tours. The passengers unloaded and participated in a day of regular activities. The group did not make it to Halawa Valley as a downed tree blocked Kamehameha V Highway. It is unclear if the tree was felled accidentally or as part of the protest.

When Ritte heard about the docking, he responded with an email to media that said, in part, “Protesters scrambled out of bed to get down to the wharf to see the same ship they had stopped the day before now docked and unloading passengers.”

Blanchard has been meeting with local business and community leaders over the past six years to arrange “cultural tours” of Molokai. He also agreed to meet with local kupuna and ‘Aha Ki’ole representatives to discuss the proper protocol for these tours.

In early September, Teri Waros, owner of the Kalele Bookstore and a local supporter of the tours, distributed a letter to the ‘Aha Ki’ole leaders announcing the intentions of ASC. When there was no initial demand for a public meeting, the company moved forward with its plans.

When the Safari Explorer first docked in Kaunakakai with passengers on Oct. 30, the protestors made their opposition clear with sign-waving and chanting. A meeting on the previous Friday delayed the visit by one day but this did not satisfy the protestors. According to ‘Aha Ki’ole leaders, a previous meeting on this issue was scheduled but not attended by Blanchard.

A second protest on Nov. 10 involved about 30 protestors standing at the wharf. The tour continued with its regular activities in spite of the protests.

Protestors have repeatedly said that ASC did not follow proper protocol in seeking permission to land on Molokai. But Blanchard said there was “not an absolutely identifiable protocol.” Protestors have not yet identified a specific protocol or process that would satisfy their concerns.

One of the central fears expressed by the protesters is that this would open the door for unlimited cruise ships coming to Molokai, turning it into another Lahaina or Waikiki.

A public meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 30, to discuss these issues. It will be held at 6 p.m. at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center.

Category: Business, Hawaiian Culture, News

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  1. The Molokai Chamber of Commerce today issued a statement in support of a cruise company that has encountered protests in recent weeks from a small group of residents.

    “The Molokai Chamber supports all business & tourism that compliments our unique lifestyle and we understand the vital role it plays in our community,” said Robert Stephenson, President of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.

    The American Safari Cruises ship turned away during a scheduled stop on Saturday after being greeted by a water blockade consisting of about 14 people on small boats and surfboards.

    The group of protesters are seeking community input on decisions over tourism on the island; and have expressed concerns over the effects of the cruise industry on the island lifestyle.

    Meantime, a small group of supporters also gathered during the Saturday’s planned visit, holding signs saying “Welcome to Molokai,” and sharing messages of aloha.

    Supporters of the operation say the cruise supports local business by utilizing island products and services, and helps to address the historically high unemployment rate on the island.

    “When there is interference with lawful commerce it can set a precedent that may have significant consequences to a fragile economy like ours,” said Stephenson in the emailed statement today.

    American Safari Cruises CEO, Dan Blanchard is expected to be in attendance at a community meeting planned for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 30, at the Mitchell Pauole Center.

    Company officials said they planned to provide comment upon the conclusion of Wednesday’s meeting.

  2. damec70@yahoo.com says:

    I can understand wanting to protect the unique culture on Molokai…

    But with 17.5% unemployment on the island and nearly half its residents on gov’t assistance, I struggle to understand why they would turn away folks looking to visit the island and spend money to support their local businesses…

    So I guess some folks on Molokai would prefer receiving gov’t assistance to building their local economy?

  3. mkklolo says:

    By what form of telepathy is Mr. Blanchard required to know of an appropriate “protocol” or even the correct persons to deal with? By all legal rights, Mr. Ritte is a private citizen, as are the members of the Aha Ki’ole councils. The Governor, quite correctly, chose to veto the bill which sought to create and empower the Aha Ki’ole program (see his veto letter http://www.ahamoku.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Governor-Veto.pdf). As the council has no official status with the state, it is a private organization with no more authority than a club or a chamber of commerce.

    So who is/are the correct contacts and where is the correct protocol published so all can understand what is expected? In fact they do not exist. What exists is the unlawful interference with commerce by a band of persons who represent an unknown segment of the Molokai population. What exists is mob rule and probably simple extortion. Even if Mr. Blanchard gives in to whatever demands this mob makes, what will they demand next?

  4. steve says:

    braddahs should refrain from driving 20mph along kam v or the governor might propose the construction of one of these http://www.america2050.org/upload/2011/01/obama-high-speed-rail-plans.jpg to run from the quaint general store up in maunaloa to goodz and grindz.

  5. mkklolo says:

    Just got a full color brochure, printed both sides, in the mail from Aha Ki’ole. I wonder who paid for the printing/mailing…couldn’t have been cheap. They want all Molokai residents to join up so that they can be the spokesman for us all.

    Who voted their reps into office? How long do they serve? When do they hold elections to office? What are the limits of their authority? How are they accountable? Do they have the authority/ability to enter into binding agreements with a company like ASC that will guarantee that no other Molokai “group” will make similar demands?

    Molokai residents should know who they are giving that kind of authority to.

    • Finding the Balance says:

      Good points….I too got the full color brochure and wondered why this was not done in their initial membership drive.

  6. Finding the Balance says:

    From the Dispatch forum to the Molokai news…in response to Kalaniua Ritte’s post…..here we go…By the way shame we are not getting more discussion on the Molokai news site…

    I too feel sickened that this is being turned into a race thing no matter on where one stands….

    I may go by Finding the Balance but lately I have put plenty of clues of who I am in the press…I am not shame to stand up and mention my name….Yes I am currently Clare Mawae and on arriving to Molokai my name changed to Clare Pereira by marriage 18 years ago, and before that I was know as Clare Seeger, so in other words a haole woman with Hawaiian kids….

    I may not be from Molokai but I did not come here by choice 18 years ago…Many of the protestors have been part of my life, help raise my children through school and other activities. I respect many but there are so many unanswered questions that I have….

    Why has it got to this process? I hear two sides to the story….and yes I am the transportation and yes I exchange “I love you’s”, and yes I exchange hugs, and yes I talk story as the protest is gearing up, and yes I exchange waves with protestors And yes the day I drove all was civil but this last weekend I was gone and only got to hear the stories…. And yes I felt the passion of the reason and fears of the yacht and yes I also know what it is like to try and earn a living, pay my bills, house and clothe my children, pay for their medical, and scrape to put food on the table and not live off the system and grants..

    I have always tried to do the right thing in everything I do. I have asked the vocal Aunties who are in the forefront of the protest to pull my ear if I step out of line with my business, I try so very hard to do good in the community and keep a balance on what I do, and I keep trying and not give up…. I may get attacked and targeted for standing up and putting pen to paper and now moreso my name…..but bottom line I know I am in the forefront of all of this and like everyone my biggest fear is change..

    I do not want cruise ships or over development…but I do want to be able to pay my bills…I do not need to be rich..but I do want to give my children a future…

    I still feel that if we can all step back, stop the racism talk and all of that we can still find solutions to all of this…

    So I may now get attacked by Pule O’o and missin Molokai and who ever else…but those that have been the extreme vocal voices on this situation know who I am…..they know my heart…and they know who I am..

    I am not here to defend myself, as I just opened myself wide up and thank you Kalaniua for putting you name to paper.. as you made a darn good point so hence doing what I have just done..

    I hope that many from both sides of the line and those in neutral will show up to the meeting tomorrow at 6 pm at Mitchell Pauole. I hope that we lay down our gloves and be there to listen and speak with our hearts and not our fists.

    And yes as you so rightly put it Kalainiua, have some honor, some pride and take responsibility but please let us all approach this with an open mind and listen to the community and find a solution that will help Molokai as a whole community….

    Aloha,
    Clare Mawae

    • steve says:

      speaking of the dispatch- to todd and its credit they have refrained from calling the tour boat a “cruise ship” choosing instead to call it simply a “yacht”. that might be small molokai sweet potatoes to some, but i can imagine he’s been pressured to do otherwise.

      as for ua’s assertion that telling haoles/japanese/etc. to go home is no big deal- well, that’s not the issue as everyone i’ve read in support of the yacht has gone out of their way to defend aha ki’ole’s right to protest. it’s when the phrase “f#ckin’haole” is used that his assertion goes out the window- it’s not only racist, it’s confrontational and borders on ethnic intimidation.

      my original intent with this comment was to say “i love clare’s passion for the lonely isle”. i wish her success as it will definitely benefit the majority of the good people of molokai. if anyone can read her comments and not have their eyes well up, they better check their aloha dipstick cause they are running a quart low.

      sorry if i strayed from that with mention of todd and ua.

      • molokainews says:

        No problem, your comments are always appreciated. By the way, at last night’s meeting, The Molokai Dispatch was listed as one of the 22 local businesses supporting American Safari Cruises. Perhaps that helps explain the friendly attitude in the Dispatch story.

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