November 13th, 2011
07:03 PM ET

Occupy sympathizer plays APEC dinner

HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) - As President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and the heads of 18 other nations dined together Saturday night, they were unwittingly serenaded for almost 45 minutes by a musician playing a song about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"We occupy the streets, we'll occupy the courts, we'll occupy the offices of you, till you do the bidding of the many, not the few," sang Matthew Swalinkavich, a well-known local guitarist who calls himself Makana, the Hawaiian word that means "the gift".  Makana was invited by the White House to perform during the APEC leaders' dinner.

Dressed in a suit, Makana at first played traditional Hawaiian-style music as leaders arrived at Honolulu's Hale Koa Hotel.  He continued his performance during dinner, positioned next to the four tables where leaders and their spouses dined.  Eventually he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a t-shirt that said, in handwritten letters, "Occupy with Aloha," and began playing a song he recently wrote called "We Are the Many".

Video recorded on a cell phone by Makana's sound technician showed some leaders turning their attention toward him as he sang the song, but most appeared not to notice.  "I started out very cautiously because my intention was not to disrupt their dinner. My intention was to subliminally convey a message that I felt was paramount to the negotiations," Makana told CNN.  "Eventually I got enough courage to go into it for an extended period of time. And I ended my show with the line 'the bidding of the many not the few.'  I sang it about fifty times in different ways for them to hear."

Makana said President Obama's table, located on the far side of the tent from where he performed, appeared engaged in conversation throughout the meal and it was unclear if the president heard the protest song.  Aides were not present at the dinner, Makana said, and the wait staff only made brief appearances to deliver courses.

The White House declined to comment on the incident.

CNN's Stacia Deshishku contributed to this report.


Topics: APEC • Hawaii • The Buzz

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Michael

    Makana deserves a "toast". Now if we can just stop the police violence on the peaceful protesters. http://www.change.org/petitions/the-president-of-the-united-states-stop-the-violence-on-peaceful-protesters

    November 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • g.c.kells

      Do you know the difference between a peaceful protest and civil disobedience. If your protest violates an existing law it is civil disobedience, and not a protected right. The police have every legal authority to disperse people setting up camps on public land. If the city didn't let you camp in the park before the protests started, they aren't obligated to let you now. Sorry you don't get to change the law to protest.

      November 14, 2011 at 12:32 am |
      • Public land meas owned by all.. There is no law above

        The constitution. The poice are criminals in this. period.

        November 14, 2011 at 3:20 am |
      • Joel Pitt

        That's the great thing about being in power, you can pretty much always cite people for infringing some law if you want to get rid of them. Seriously, you should see some of the laughable laws they are pulling people up on. The Civil War wasn't legal, neither are a lot of the behaviours of the rich. Difference is that they have the power and money to bend the law.

        November 14, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • durundal

      anonymous took care of that near me. Apparently they got onto the police website and published the names and addresses of the police involved

      November 14, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • steveo

      Michael,

      I am in agreement with G.C. Kells here. It cannot be denyied that there is a violent element in OWS, albeit, they are in the minority. Look, all a cop wants to do is do his/her job and go home! In Oakland, some in OWS have became violent, protesting in and interfereing with businesses, reports of sexual abuse, drug overdosing and such. You forgot that part of the story! As I said, all a cop wants to do is make it to the end of their shift and go home safety! You know good and well that there is an element out there in OWS that does not want that to happen! Again, it is not everyone but it appears it is still too many!

      November 14, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • steveo

      Michael,
      I am in agreement with G.C. Kells here. It cannot be denied that there is a violent element in OWS, albeit, they are in the minority. Look, all a cop wants to do is do his/her job and go home! In Oakland, some in OWS have became violent, protesting in and interfering with businesses, reports of s-e-xual abuse, drug overdosing and such. You forgot that part of the story! As I said, all a cop wants to do is make it to the end of their shift and go home safety! You know good and well that there is an element out there in OWS that does not want that to happen! Again, it is not everyone but it appears it is still too many!

      November 14, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Howard

      OCCUPY HYPOCRITES:

      The following 'occupy' supporting
      celebrities, paid by you and me,
      are in America's top one percent.
      Let's let each one of them keep
      FIVE MILLION DOLLARS,
      but occupiers should camp out on
      their lawns, or places of business,
      until they give the rest of their money to the poor !!!

      #1 Yoko Ono Net Worth – $500 million.

      #2 Russell Simmons Net Worth – $325 million

      #3 Roseanne Barr Net Worth – $80 million

      #4 Deepak Chopra Net Worth – $80 million

      #5 Kanye West Net Worth – $70 million

      #6 Alec Baldwin Net Worth – $65 million

      #7 Susan Sarandon Net Worth – $50 million

      #8 Michael Moore Net Worth – $50 million

      #9 Tim Robbins Net Worth – $50 million

      #10 Nancy Pelosi Net Worth – $35.5 million

      #11 Oprah Winfrey Net Worth – $2.7 Billion

      #12 Lady Gaga Net Worth – $110 million

      #13 Jay-Z Net Worth – $450 million

      #14 Lil Wayne Net Worth – $85 million

      #15 50 cent Net worth – $250 million

      #16 Rosie ODonnel Net Worth – $100 million

      #17 Julia Louis-Dreyfus Net Worth – $3 billion

      #18 Matt Damon Net Worth – $65 million

      November 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  2. Warren

    Absoultely incredible song. This should be the song of the Occupy Movement!

    November 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  3. Robert Hunter

    Representing the Pacific! Beautiful song! We stand with "Occupy"!

    November 13, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  4. Julie in Maui

    ALOHA – MAKANA – YES !! REPRESENT WITH BRILLIANCE AND INTELLIGENCE – YOU ACCOMPLISHED IN ONE SONG WHAT MANY HAVE BEEN TRYING FOR MONTHS – TO BREAK THE CNN BARRIER TO ACTUAL UNBIASED NEWS REPORTING FOR THE OCCUPATIONS – MAHALO NUI LOA !! YOU ARE BRAVE AND BRILLIANT !!

    November 14, 2011 at 2:46 am |
  5. Town Hall, America Debates

    See and Hear Makana's song "We Are The Few" at http://www.townhallamericadebates.com and join in the discussion!

    November 14, 2011 at 3:42 am |
  6. BrianB

    Thank god somebody with Occupy put these APEC "free trade" talks in the headlights. These are absolutely shameful and I am disgusted that Obama and APEC are talking about more free trade and claim its going to help with unemployment. Don't we have enough companies employing slave labor in one country and using "free trade" as a guise to move into other countries and price out all their small businesses and decently paying jobs? And these leaders are discussing implementing MORE free trade? Absolutely disgusting. I am ashamed to ever have been an Obama supporter.

    Hopefully next Occupy plan will be to do us all a favor and blow up these meetings.

    November 14, 2011 at 5:25 am |
  7. BrianB

    Thank god somebody with Occupy put these APEC "free trade" talks in the headlights. These are absolutely shameful and I am disgusted that Obama and APEC are talking about more free trade and claim its going to help with unemployment. Don't we have enough companies employing slave labor in one country and using "free trade" as a guise to move into other countries and price out all their small businesses and decently paying jobs? And these leaders are discussing implementing MORE free trade? Absolutely disgusting. I am ashamed to ever have been an Obama supporter.

    Hopefully next Occupy plan will be to do us all a favor and shut down these meetings for good.

    November 14, 2011 at 5:27 am |
  8. Mike

    I'm glad my tax dollars helped pay for this. I wonder what the monetary cost is for these boondoggles our elected "Perfumed Princes and Princesses" attend. I wonder what the carbon footprint is for all the corporate jets, limousines and support vehicles. What's the negative impact of having high end food and wine flown in from all around the world?

    Hope and Change? Yes, we con.

    November 14, 2011 at 5:52 am |
  9. Sadie Boyd

    Hail to the occupy movement! The bar has been risen, no more pop songs about nothing...seize the day and write your hearts out!

    November 14, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  10. Lokelo

    Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono............

    November 14, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  11. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @Steveo...I agree with Joel Pitt. If there's active violence and interfering happening in OAKLAND or at any other OWS site...I'm sure it stemmed from police brutality! Yes..they want to do their jobs, finish their shifts and go home safely; but their 'job' is what the sytem tells them to do! 'Get out there; run them off by any means necessary'! You can rest assured that people who're doing nothing but exercising their rights to freedom of speech to the 'powers that be' just may be fighting back! Surprised?

    November 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • steveo

      Liz,

      1. "The System" writes the laws, the police enforce what is written.
      2. Since we are talking about Oakland specifically, a very liberal city with a very liberal city and county council that wrote the laws you are complaining the the police are enforcing! Could it be that is the problem?
      3. How do you "know" this started with Police brutality? Why are you so sure some troublemaker with OWS didn't?
      4. OWS interfered in business by marching into and shouting and screaming in a bank. It was not the police but rather some marching under the OWS banner!
      5. Let's research the political makeup of those in power in the major OWS cities, lets see what we find!
      6. I am NOT Wall Street and I have had NO problems with Police. I wonder if speaking to them calmly and with respect have anything to do with it?

      November 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  12. Darkguardian1314

    Regardless of his personal view, he was hired to play music at the dinner not stage a protest. He was trusted and he betrayed that trust. If every artist and musician, we go to concerts or watch on TV does this than it wouldn't be so cute. Remember Sinead O'Connor and Kanye West protest on live TV. He said he didn't care if he wasn't invited back but he has to be aware that he makes a living on his music and if people don't buy, he won't eat. Keep your professional and personal life separate.

    November 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  13. Liz Carter in Georgia

    ...The police are very much needed in our nation to 'protect and serve' the 'people' but who do they 'protect and serve' even with their own lives sometimes? Who? Who gets priority service, protection and first dibs? You're an intelligent man, and I know you know who that is when it comes down to the draw! If not I'll tell you...It's 'WALLSTREET' the Capitalists; aka the top 1%, not 'OCCUPY WALLSTREET' the poor/middle-class; aka the 99%, also the majority of Americas' 'we the people'. It's just so obvious!

    November 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • steveo

      Liz,
      I HATE blanket statements, ie:
      ALL Wall Street is...
      ALL Tea Party people are...
      ALL Dems/Libs are...
      ALL OWS is...
      ALL police are...
      ALL (fill in the blank) are....
      Because what comes after the " ..." are lies at worst and half truths at best! That is unless you actually know the "ALL"

      I will repeat... there is a bad element in OWS I believe they are in the minority yet are loud and action oriented enough to cause a whole lot of havoc that both police and the well intentioned element of OWS have to deal with.

      November 14, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  14. Shannon

    HEY CNN – WHY DID YOU TAKE THE GREAT VIDEO OFF OF THIS ARTICLE?????????? That's bogus!!! Report the TRUTH!

    For those who missed it: CNN took the Makana video off of the top of the article, but I found it – its really good... :) Please share!!! http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/11/13/mann-makana-occupy-with-aloha-apec.cnn

    November 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  15. Dave

    "appeared engaged in conversation throughout the meal and it was unclear if the president heard the protest song"

    Oh, they heard it. CNN's usual attempts to discredit the people aside. There's no way they didn't notice this song repeated 50 times.

    November 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  16. Eve

    Agree with Dave whole-heartedly = they heard AND reported...favourably instead of dismissively: About Time, too!!! :)

    November 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  17. SaintM

    The occupy protests are accomplishing nothing. There is no organization to the "Woodstock" movement, and until there is, they will not be taken seriously, and trouble will continue. I'm all for protests for a good cause, and protest that garner real results. This little twit's agenda was to make himself a folk hero while being completely disrespectful toward the president and world leaders for what their meetings are trying to accomplish.

    Go away, Makana, you pathetic little jerk, what you need is a swift kick in the ass and not to be hired as a musician for anyone ever again.

    November 14, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  18. Elizabeth Diamond

    I would just like to point out that Makana although as-said is a musician whose home is based in Honolulu, he is in fact a WORLD musician and master songwriter who is not merely 'local', having toured the Mainland, Japan & Europe extensively, including being the opening act for world-renowned musicians such as Sting & Santana, etc. His music is a blessing & a GIFT to the world; Aloha!

    November 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • SaintM

      So What–doesn't mean he has the right to disrupt the meetings and to disrespect his president. There is a time and place for everything. If he was asked to perform, then he should have been honored by the invitation and do what he was hired to do–perform music–not stage a one-man protest to support other protesters. I don't care who he is or how good you say he is, or who he's opened for (Sting–oh for God's sake). He still is an ass and I'd tell him to his face, and yours if you think what he did made him a big man–which, BTW, the photo of him strongly suggests otherwise.

      November 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  19. Mauibrad

    CNN's lady studio reporter in this is asking stupid questions indicating that she is not familiar with the level of Makana's performance. Makana is known within the industry as one of the best guitar players in the WORLD. As long as he is not disrupting things, they would not stop him from playing once he has started, esp. because most of the people there were guests of the President and the Makana was performing at the request of the President.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  20. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Steveo...did I use the word 'ALL' in any of my previous response to your post? If I did please show me. How do you know that it wasn't due to police brutality? That does happen you know all over the US. Yet I acknowledged the fact and said we needed them. I KNOW we are generally safer and better off with them than without them! That's one reason I'm floored when so many of their jobs are being phased out, along with teachers and firemen! You said yourself..it was reported. Well that's all they are..REPORTS!

    November 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  21. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Most of our sytems' corporate owned media reports to us what they want us to percieve..they paint the picture that shows them as the 'righteous ones'! Even in the ATLANTA OWS...there was reported that someone came into the group with an AK47, but nobody that was around in that area saw it. If it was in fact true, it's already been figured out to be a 'plant' to cause our mayor to shut the park down! Many nations have protested their established systems; especially recently..why shouldn't we? It's our time!

    November 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  22. Liz Carter in Georgia

    I don't see how you can claim or even believe the President was disrespected by the musician when the President and most of his party have been calling for or 'doing the bidding' for 99%ers anyway! Oh...it's of course it's been met with obstruction and ill-will. The musician wasn't disrepectful! 'HELL NO WE AIN'T'! from OUR HOUSE floor, 'YOU LIE'! at the STATE of the UNION, and more nasty outbursts, the GOPs strategical discrediting conspiracy of OBAMA to make him a 'ONE TERM PRESIDENT'! won that trophy!

    November 17, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  23. Charles Laquidara

    This did not happen the way it appeared on CNN. This did not happen in the sequence as was originally posted and inferred
    by the artist. He played well BEFORE any of the dignitaries arrived and CNN bought into his version without checking facts and actual time windows. Share this and post it a million times, please- help stop the crazy comments, ad libs and misinformation being regurgitated on this post..

    November 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  24. Larry Pohovich

    I think the occupy movement should be welcome at the white house with Obama. Like he said they have a right to their opinion and they paid for the white House with their taxes..Let them move in.

    January 17, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
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