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Sovereignty group seizes palace, vows to return

May 1, 2008
By

Members say protest will go on today but gates will stay open.

Gordon Y.K. Pang . A Hawaiian sovereignty group occupied the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace, locked the gates and blocked non-Hawaiians from entering for about eight hours yesterday to protest the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian government more than a century ago.

The protest was conducted by the Hawaiian Kingdom Government, one of several groups that claim to be the successor government of Hawai’i. The group said it will return to the palace today but will not lock the gates.

No arrests were made yesterday and the protest ended peacefully with the group removing the locks it had placed on the gates at around 5:30 a.m.

Extra security will be on hand this morning to ensure the gates will not be locked again, said Laura Thielen, head of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over the palace grounds.

A number of symbolic protests have been staged on the palace grounds to draw attention to Native Hawaiian issues, some with the consent of palace officials. But yesterday’s action went further than most by actually locking the gates to the palace grounds and shutting down not just the former residence of Hawaiian royalty but also the State Archives Building.

Thielen said it has not been decided what, if any, charges would be filed against the group or its members. “That depends. We’ll remain assessing the situation and see what happens,” she said.

“We wanted to have a peaceful end to the protest. We wanted to make sure that the open area remained open to the public, and we wanted to make sure that these historic buildings remained safe and secure,” Thielen said.

Honolulu Police Department Chief Boisse Correa, wearing a suit, arrived on the property at around noon accompanied by police spokesman Maj. Frank Fujii in an aloha shirt. Correa sat cross-legged on the grass and spoke with Mahealani Kahau, leader of the group, for about 10 minutes and left without speaking to reporters.

Kahau said Correa told her that because palace grounds are under the jurisdiction of the state, HPD is not required to take any action against the group.

“HPD is going to stay away because … he (Correa) is still a friend of the Hawaiian kingdom and he understands our beliefs. He support,” Kahau said.

Sen. Will Espero, D-20th (‘Ewa Beach, Waipahu), blasted the administration of Gov. Linda Lingle for failing to stop the action.

“As chairman of the Public Safety Committee, I was concerned that our law enforcement division – the sheriffs and the Honolulu Police Department – were not present,” Espero said in a news release.

Espero said he was told by those at the gates that the state knew in advance that the Hawaiian Kingdom Government would be taking action.

Espero said that while he supports peaceful protests, “when these actions affect state government operations and personnel, our state leaders must be held accountable for their action or inaction. The DLNR controls the state property that is under siege, and the sheriff’s office protects state property.”

‘NOT GOING TO GO AWAY’

The palace was shut down to business for the day and roughly 35 employees sent home except for two security officers. The state archives office also was closed to the public for the day and about 10 employees sent home.

Thielen and Lingle spokesman Russell Pang said neither they nor other state officials knew members of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government would lock the gates to the palace grounds.

Kahau and other leaders of the group began meeting with state officials earlier this week. Kippen de Alba Chu, executive director of Friends of ‘Iolani Palace, said he and DLNR officials were given papers from the Hawaiian Kingdom Government on Monday “claiming that they are the legitimate government and not subject to state law.”

“This is the seat of government; we’re not going to go away,” Kahau said. “The Hawaiian Kingdom Government has resumed its lawful status as the functioning government.”

Between 50 and 70 people claiming to be part of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government arrived at the palace grounds at about 5:30 a.m. yesterday and began locking each of the roughly eight entrances. They also placed signs stating, “Warning! No Trespassing; This is private property” on the famous wrought-iron gates surrounding the palace.

Group security guards stationed at the gates allowed in people with Hawaiian blood and members of the news media. Non-Hawaiians were told they would be allowed entry only if they “registered” with the government.

The group did not enter the palace itself, where two ‘Iolani Palace personnel stayed in place throughout the day, Thielen said.

The state leases the palace to the nonprofit Friends of ‘Iolani Palace.

At about 2 p.m., DLNR law enforcement chief Gary Moniz met briefly with Kahau. Shortly thereafter, the gates to the grounds were reopened.

Thielen, who arrived on the scene a short time later, said the group’s members would be allowed to stay through the day, like all other members of the public.

Kahau and her group stayed on the site until about 4 p.m.

“We’ll be here at 6 o’clock in the morning,” Kahau said, as others in her group began packing up.

Kahau said the members of her group were unarmed and that they neither intended to occupy the palace itself or get themselves arrested.

“We’ve been told that warrants are being issued to have us arrested,” Kahau said around noon, shortly after a huddle with Correa. “Let it be known that when they come we’re going to leave graciously but we’re going to be back tomorrow.”

The Hawaiian Kingdom Government is one of the lesser known groups that claim to be the legitimate representatives of Native Hawaiians. The group does not recognize U.S. or Hawai’i state authority.

Other sovereignty groups include the Reinstated Hawaiian Government headed by Henry Noa, and the Independent and Sovereign National State of Hawai’i (Nation of Hawai’i) headed by Dennis Pu’uhonua “Bumpy” Kanahele.

The Hawaiian Kingdom Government is one of the few groups to have an actual office from which its leaders hold regular hours.

For at least the past two years, it has operated out of an office at 210 ‘Iolani Ave. According to its Web site, its goals include quality housing for the Hawaiian people and lowering the cost of education and healthcare for residents.

CALLS OF SUPPORT

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs several years ago granted $10,000 to the group for a meeting that took place on the palace grounds to discuss the issue of nationhood for Native Hawaiians.

Chu, of the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace, said the Hawaiian Kingdom Government asked to take over the old ‘Iolani barracks, also known as Halekoa, and the Kana’ina Building, formerly the archives building and now occupied by Chu and his staff.

In response, “I said we have a lease agreement with the state,” Chu said. The agreement calls for the Friends group to occupy and maintain the palace for five years.

Kahau said that her group does not want to occupy the palace “because that’s a sacred place.”

The group received several calls of support from the leaders of other sovereignty organizations yesterday, Kahau said, including Kanahele and Noa.

“They all support what we’re doing today,” Kahau said. “We’re walking the same path with them.”

Several members of Hui Pu, a loose-knit group of sovereignty organizations, came to the palace to show support.

Andre Perez, a Hui Pu member, said “all Hawaiians seeking self-determination and self-governance should support these kinds of actions.”

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or 690-8908.

Photo/Drop-in:

THE ADVERTISER’S VIDEO REPORTS

See video and more photos of yesterday’s palace grounds takeover at

HONOLULUADVERTISER.COM

May 1, 2008
Section: Main
Page: 1A

Sovereignty group seizes palace, vows to return
Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Final
Copyright (c) The Honolulu Advertiser. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.

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