Hundreds protest in Waikiki as APEC leaders meet

HONOLULU (AP) — A few hundred protesters marched on Waikiki Saturday as leaders of Pacific Rim nations gathered for a summit to discuss free trade agreements and other issues.

People pounded on drums and chanted slogans as they peacefully walked on sidewalks from a Honolulu park to reach the center of Waikiki.

They stopped at the edge of a fence blocking off a security zone protecting delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. President Barack Obama, other heads of state, and corporate CEOs had meetings all day on the other side of the temporary wall.

“Hey APEC listen up, 99 are rising up,” they shouted, in reference to the idea that the richest 1 percent of the U.S. population are benefiting from the current economy while the remainder are losing.

Many residents gathered on their balconies to watch the line pass. In Waikiki, pulled out their camera phones to get a shot of the scene.

Tom Dye, a 59-year-old scientist from Honolulu, carried a cardboard sign that said “APEC(equals)Capitalism on Steroids.”

“Wealth is distributed too unequally,” Dye said. “I want them to be less greedy and mean.”

Others held signs saying “Occupy APEC” and “Free Trade(equals)What A Rip Off.”

About five members of the Hokkaido Farmers Union in Japan participated. They wore headbands objecting to Japan joining a free trade pact called “Trans-Pacific Partnership” that’s being discussed the APEC meeting.

Jonathan Osorio, a University of Hawaii professor of Hawaiian Studies who joined the march, said APEC leaders should stop adopting trade agreements that break down regulations and laws in their own nations.

“I hope they’ll get that they shouldn’t be having these private audiences with powerful and wealthy people and corporations and really essentially exclude everyone else — their laborers, their consumers,” Osorio said.

A few dozen Vietnamese-Americans protesting for human rights in Vietnam joined the marchers. Their focus was on objecting to Vietnamese controls on free speech, press and the Internet. They called for the release of activists they say have been arrested and held without due process in Vietnam.

The demonstration was the largest so far at this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

Earlier in the day, a few activists holding anti-APEC signs waded into the water near Waikiki hotels where President Barack Obama and other leaders met.

Several dozen members of the spiritual movement Falun Gong held signs outside a hotel where Chinese President Hu Jintao was speaking. One banner said “Stop Persecution of Falun Gong in China.”

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