A group of protesters gathered outside of Lincoln Park in downtown Hilo on Tuesday morning, sporting signs that read “Aloha not racism” and “Park for Peace.”
The Big Island rabble-rousers stood on both sides of Kinoole Street, waving Hawaiian sovereignty and gay pride flags, banging drums and blowing whistles, while East Hawaii drivers honked their horns in support of their peaceful message.
Kaonohi ‘O Kalani, 64, and Makiana Mendez, 61, both of Pahoa, organized the event.
They say an East Hawaii man’s signs located outside of the park featuring anti-President Barack Obama, anti-abortion, and anti-Islamic rhetoric inhibit keiki access to the park.
“Every time I came to Hilo there was that sign out there,” ‘O Kalani said, while pointing to the large poster outside of the park featuring sayings such as “Allah is Satan” and “Muhammad was a pedophile and a false prophet.”
“Every time, I thought about the keiki. Schools don’t even let the kids go into the park,” she said.
Clayton Honma, director of the Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation, said he has not received any complaints from schools about the material that belongs to James Borden, self-proclaimed leader of the Christian Lincoln Park Church.
Honma said Borden has “every right to be at the park” since it’s a public place.
“As far as his message goes, his board and signs are on his car in the parking lot. We have no jurisdiction there,” he said.
Borden sat inside the park Tuesday with a few of his followers during the rally. Some of his supporters yelled at the protesters while Borden sat placidly nearby.
He said that those opposed to his views “don’t understand the message.”
“I’m trying to protect people from the evil of the world. That evil is Obama and Islam,” he said.
Borden and his signs have been on display Monday through Friday at the county park for the past three years.
He plans to continue to display his views publicly despite Tuesday’s rally.
“The mayor’s office could get 5 million to 10 million signatures on a petition and it wouldn’t matter because I’m protected under the First Amendment,” he said.
Mendez said they hope to hold the aloha rally each week and she wants to work with local university groups and other volunteers for future gatherings. She’d also like to see the park renamed to “Lincoln Peace Park.”
“This is only the beginning…” Mendez said. “I think people have to rise up and speak up. Not just talk it, but walk it.”
The rally started around 9:30 a.m. with several protesters present. The sign-waving event gained momentum throughout the day as different protesters showed up to participate.
Hawaii County police officials arrived at the rally around noon. No arrests were made but protesters were advised to stay out of the street and on the sidewalk.
Email Megan Moseley at firstname.lastname@example.org.