Activists are planning protests after Aloha Poke Co.’s push to trademark the word “aloha.”
Backlash erupted after attorneys from the Chicago-based poke chain sent cease-and-desist letters to poke bowl restaurants across the country that use the word “aloha” in their names.
Native American activist Kalamaokaaina Niheu reacted to the news on Facebook in a video that went viral. She called the action by Aloha Poke Co. cultural appropriation and started a petition asking for the chain to drop “aloha” from its name. So far, the petition has over 152,000 signatures.
Since then, local activists have been organizing demonstrations. The first is planned for noon Friday at one of the chain’s Loop locations, 303 W. Madison St. A march will take place beginning in Millennium Monument at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 13. Native Hawaiians organizing under the name #AlohaNotForSale plan to march from the landmark, 201 E. Randolph St, to the Aloha Poke Co. at 125 S. Clark Street. A third protest is set to take place on at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Lincoln Park location, 181 W. Fullerton Ave. Protesters plan to hula and chant. The planned protests were first reported by Chicago Eater.
“We call for support to raise awareness of this sensitive issue to Native Hawaiians everywhere and including our Brothers and Sisters of our Indigenous communities,” an organizer wrote on the Facebook event page.
Aloha Poke Co. founder Zach Friedlander, who is no longer with the company, apologized to anyone offended by the “situation.”
A representative from Aloha Poke Co. said the company had not tried to restrict use of the word “aloha,” and was just protecting the trademarked name “Aloha Poke.” The company apologized in a Facebook post, but has not backed off from legally pursuing their trademarks.
Jane Recker contributed to this report.