Residents rally on Church Row

  • Waimea residents hold signs along Mamalahoa Highway Sunday morning encouraging President-elect Trump not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and social security benefits. Supporters honk their horns in support driving by. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
    Waimea residents hold signs along Mamalahoa Highway Sunday morning encouraging President-elect Trump not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and social security benefits. Supporters honk their horns in support driving by. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
  • One of three rally signs waved by North Hawaii Action Network members at an entitlement rally in Waimea on Sunday. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
    One of three rally signs waved by North Hawaii Action Network members at an entitlement rally in Waimea on Sunday. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

WAIMEA — As Inauguration Day fast approaches, North Hawaii residents are standing their ground with President-elect Donald Trump on statements he first made in 2015.

Kamuela resident Judy Howard led a peaceful demonstration with 10 other residents on Church Row Sunday morning. Each held a sign along Mamalahoa Highway with messages that covered the gamut from “Protect social security, Medicaid and Medicare,” to “Save Affordable Act” and “Stand by us for equality, human rights, civil liberties and earth.”

The group is holding Trump accountable for what he said at the New Hampshire Republic Leadership Summit in April 2015.

“Every Republican wants to do a big number on social security. They want to do it on Medicare. They want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. It’s not fair to the people who have been paying it for years,” he said.

Keeping these rights are the mission of North Hawaii Action Network, a new group of activists that Howard joined in December. Founded by Waimea resident Susan Chouinard, the group has more than 45 members. Their overall goal is “to create and nurture a welcoming community, state and nation in which all people feel safe and ‘Live Aloha’ — respecting each other and the planet.”

“A lot of us were feeling frustrated with the political situation and decided we wanted to get together and try to make a difference,” Chouinard said. “We wanted to make sure we stood for the values and rights we wanted to protect, and especially the people.”

Howard came up with the idea for what she called an “entitlement rally” in response to a request made by Senator Bernie Sanders.

“He called for nationwide efforts and no one was doing it locally, so I decided to do it,” she said. “I wanted to just keep it simple, small and show support. I thought this would show some solidarity.”

The rally is the group’s first initiative. They have other ideas moving forward.

“To get our message to Trump, we intend to participate in a lot of letter writing, petitions and phone calls we think will make a difference to the House of Representatives, Congress, here locally and in other states. It’s important to get the message across to the GOP,” Chouinard said. “Another way is just to energize as many people as we can to get into the activism, and band together in Democratic states.”

The group is also seeking support from larger entities.

“We’re offering local businesses and organizations the chance to proudly welcome everyone to their store, office or service center with an Equality Pledge poster that they can proudly display,” she said. “We want them to show that they are supportive of all types of people – all genders, races and faith – and to get the message out there that all kinds of people are safe in this haven.”

As their next step, North Hawaii Action Network members will participate in the Hilo Women’s March this Saturday to take a stand for equality.

“We chose Hilo because it was more vocal and organized early on,” Chouinard said. “Kona has caught up but Hilo was our first choice because it seemed like more people were going and we wanted to be part of a larger crowd and energize people more.”

Info: northhawaiiactionnetwork.com or www.facebook.com/northhawaiiaction/

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