Annie Nelson, activist, hero, resister

photo:  Matthew Thayer

www.Mauinews.com

Marcher Annie Nelson shouts, “Fake Christian! Fake Christian!” and “God hates hate!” into Darrel Hall’s microphone Saturday morning on the University of Hawaii Maui College campus. The Paia resident was nearing the end of the Maui Women’s March when she joined other marchers expressing disapproval of the three-person counter-protest’s amplified message against abortion, feminism, liberalism, homosexuality and “being obsessed with vaginas.”

KAHULUI — A peaceful Maui Women’s March that had been, in turns, spiritual, a progressive liberal political rally and a venue to denounce President Donald Trump became confrontational Saturday when three counterprotesters showed up with a bullhorn at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

Paia resident Annie Nelson, the wife of country singer, songwriter and actor Willie Nelson, joined about 100 marchers who confronted the trio and their loud condemnation of abortion, feminism, homosexuality and “being obsessed with vaginas.”

“Fake Christian! Fake Christian! God hates hate!” Nelson shouted into the mic held alternatively by father and son Darrel and Alex Hall. (A third counterprotester was unidentified.)

Some marchers sang “We Shall Overcome” while others took positions close by the Halls and held signs and skateboards to block their anti-march messages.

Annie Nelson said she could not walk by without speaking up.

Women, men and children walk across the University of Hawaii Maui College campus at the start of Saturday’s Maui Women’s March in Kahului. - The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Women, men and children walk across the University of Hawaii Maui College campus at the start of Saturday’s Maui Women’s March in Kahului. – The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“Standing up together and saying we have had enough is the most powerful thing we can do,” she said. “My father fought in the Battle of the Bulge to fight fascism. I’m not going to give up my country to a bunch of fascists. You’ve got to stand up. Nobody else is going to do it for you.”

As she walked away, Darrel Hall said: “Why would I talk to a person wearing a pink vagina on their head?”

While his son shouted warnings over the bullhorn, Hall said, “I love all the people on Maui, and I want them to turn to God. . . . This whole march is organized by enemies of our country. They are getting the wrong answers.”

Amid hundreds of people denouncing the president, Darrel Hall wore a baseball cap that read “USA” on the front and “Trump” on the back.

In response to Alex Hall’s rant against homosexuality, two young women, Faith Lindstrom and Mitch Ray, embraced for a long kiss while standing between the Halls. Ray said the Halls have a right to say what they want. “It doesn’t bother us,” she said.

In response to Alex Hall’s rant against homosexuality, two young women, Faith Lindstrom and Mitch Ray, embrace for a long kiss while standing between the Halls. Ray said the Halls have a right to say what they want. “It doesn’t bother us,” she said. - The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

In response to Alex Hall’s rant against homosexuality, two young women, Faith Lindstrom and Mitch Ray, embrace for a long kiss while standing between the Halls. Ray said the Halls have a right to say what they want. “It doesn’t bother us,” she said. – The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Alex Hall repeatedly referred to women who were wearing pink “pussy” hats.

“Why are you all wearing pink vaginas on your heads?” he asked. “You are obsessed with vaginas. You’re confused. You love aberration.”

Later, he told the crowd, “You say, ‘It’s all Trump’s fault. It’s Trump’s fault for global warming, it’s Trump’s fault you’re fat, It’s Trump’s fault you’re ugly.’”

Accompanying the Halls was a young woman whom Darrel Hall declined to identify. She held a sign that read, “Feminism causes women to hate men, kill their children, become witches, whores & lesbians.”

While the marchers didn’t shy away from confronting the Halls, they appeared more intent on countering their message with kindness and tolerance.

Some colorful signs promote messages of love and understanding Saturday, while others took aim at President Donald Trump. - The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Some colorful signs promote messages of love and understanding Saturday, while others took aim at President Donald Trump. – The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Emcee Kathy Collins thanked marchers for the peaceful aloha they showed the protesters as they counterprotested the counterprotesters. Then, she invited them down toward the stage to enjoy the scheduled entertainment.

“What they love is an audience,” Collins said. “So come on down here.”

Before the counterprotesters appeared on the college’s Great Lawn, marchers listened to speeches and waved signs with anti-Trump messages, like: “Trump No, Women Yes”; “Big Mistake, Worst President Ever!”; and “Unfit to Serve.”

Other statements were more positive, like: “Be Love Now, Choose Love”; and “Love Everyone and Tell the Truth.”

The Women’s March movement began last year with retired attorney and Hana resident Teresa Shook, who created a Facebook event page to counter Trump rhetoric toward women and minorities. Her event went viral, and she addressed a packed crowd on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a day after Trump’s inauguration last year.

At UH-Maui College, Virgie Cantorna, a mother and licensed clinical psychologist in private practice, read a message from Shook, who was unable to attend.

“If I could clone myself, I would be at all the anniversary events,” Shook said, who thanked people for marching last year and Saturday. “We are a movement making change!

. . . We are turning the tide. We are leading the way to a fair, just and inclusive America.”

Pukalani resident Robin Pilus, one of the march organizers, said she was pleased to see a turnout that she estimated at 3,500 people (although there some higher estimates).

“I’m so delighted and amazed,” Pilus said.

A year after Trump’s inauguration, “things have changed in terms of the heightened involvement, boots on the ground, making things happen,” she said. Women “are involved; they’re sending postcards; they’re running for office.”

The Maui Women’s March was just one of many other marches in places like New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Oklahoma City and Washington, D.C. In the nation’s capital, President Trump tweeted that it was a “perfect day” for women to march to celebrate the “unprecedented economic success and wealth creation” that’s happened during his first year in office.

At the UH-Maui College event, Pilus said the marches are a movement.

“It’s a movement that focuses on trying to get our country moving in the right direction,” she said.

Even though a year has passed, “one thing that’s been constant is the president remains the same guy,” she said, laughing. The president is noninclusive, misogynistic “and he supports legislation that does not align with the progressive agenda.”

After the Jan. 13 false alarm of an inbound missile attack in Hawaii, such a catastrophic event was taken seriously, pushing people into a “high anxiety mode,” she said. “That’s different than fear. I think people are desperately trying to remain empowered.”

Cantorna told the crowd assembled on the Great Lawn that Trump has aggravated political tensions with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, taunting and baiting him, calling him “Little Rocket Man” and tweeting that: “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

“We live in a tense time,” Cantorna said. “We are at greater risk of nuclear catastrophe now.”

She said the president also has contributed to an acceptance of aberrant behavior and an erosion of public civility.

“What is especially frightening is that inciting violence and hate crimes in America has become the new norm, unthinkable thoughts have become the new standard, unspeakable words have become the new headlines,” she said.

* Brian Perry can be reached

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