WAILUA — One person was arrested Thursday morning in Wailua, where the famed Coco Palms Resort once stood, as last month’s court-ordered ejectment was enforced.
In a joint task force, members of the State Sheriff’s Division, Kauai Police Department, the law enforcement division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Attorney General’s Office enforced the order.
Chuck Hanie, who has been living on the land for over a year, said only two people were present on the property when dozens of law enforcement officers showed up, temporarily closing Kuamoo Road. There had been upwards of 75 people on the property at certain periods of the occupation.
In a statement, Hanie’s wife Jessica said they plan to return to the land.
“All we’re trying to do is be sustainable and feed our people,” she said, stating about 80 percent of the homeless on Kauai are locals or of Kanaka Maoli descent.
The Hanies’ daughter, Mahealani Hanie-Grace, 23, was the only person arrested during the enforcement. She was later released without bail.
“I don’t really have anywhere else to go to,” Mahealani Hanie-Grace said. “The guys helped me out when I didn’t have anything. That’s why I’m here.”
Throughout the morning about 50 people came and went in support of the activists.
In a statement to TGI, developer Chad Waters said construction on the resort is scheduled to resume within the next four to five months.
“We are planning on fencing off the property in order to keep trespassers off during construction,” he said. “We’ll be calling KPD if any trespassers show up.”
The defendants claim they are the rightful heirs and owners of the property through ancestry and a royal patent, while Coco Palms Hui, a development company owned by Waters and Tyler Greene, claim ownership through a special warranty deed they purchased in 2016 for $23 million, from Prudential Insurance.
A 350-room, $175 million resort is planned for the property.
The ejectment happened the day before Coco Palms was scheduled to be in court for a motions hearing to strike a document filed by defendants in a civil case between Kanaka Maoli Activists Noa Mau-Espirito, Kamu “Charles” Hepa and Coco Palms Hui.
Filed late last month the document, dated and stamped by The Hawaiian Judiciary Court of the Sovereign, is entitled a “default judgment and notice of entry of default judgment,” and charges District Court Judge Michael Soong on several counts, calling for his arrest.
“What we are doing is going for fishing, for food, for eat,” said Mau-Espirito, who urged his fellow activists to have no hard feelings against the law enforcement officers who were there to enforce the order.
“They’re our family,” said Mau-Espirito, who shook hands with and hugged officers. “They are just following orders.”
“Everything is going as planned, Mau-Espirito said. “I expected my adversaries to pull a squirrelly move like this.”
There are two quotes, Mau-Espirito said, that summarize how he felt about what happened.
“First of all, victory goes to who is worthy of it,” he said. Secondly, he said, “It’s not the most expensive sword that wins the battle, but the strongest spirit, so we shall see who has the strongest spirit.”
Thursday’s enforcement of the court order, said Hepa, has made him stronger.
“It burns my fire. I’m not done, we’re not done,” he said.
At the end of the day, he said, this is just the beginning.
“I’ll laugh when I see these guys getting federally indicted of war crimes and pillaging and like today, (speaking of the arrest), kidnapping,” he said. “Arresting someone and releasing them with no bail.”
They’re throwing this in front of them, he said, because of Friday’s scheduled hearing.
“So now, the people will have a voice in this matter,” Hepa said. “Their voices will be heard worldwide.”
For members of the Lahue Kanaka Maoli Nation, the site in Wailua is sacred, with ties to the last queen of Kauai, Deborah Kapule and many ali’i.
“This is the Kingdom of Hawaii,” he added. “Not the United States. How can someone without Hawaiian descent claim title above the royal patent without the originals?”
Activist Ke‘ala Lopez said movements like these are happening because, “the Kanaka woke up and the kids grew up and we’re finally coming into the position to be able to do something.”
The group, she said, didn’t expect the enforcement to happen Thursday morning before a court hearing.
“It’s like waking up during a natural catastrophe and all of a sudden needing to make important decisions as soon as you open your eyes,” she said.
For almost two years, Vance Hunt said he has been living on the land and sees the ejectment as just another drill.
“It’s an inconvenience for the Kanaka, because we’re just trying to bring back the loi (ancient tarot patches),” he said. “Our dream is to have enough food to feed the community for free. This is a waste of time and money to pay bruddahs, (police), to stand here and do nothing. The ultimate goal is Kanaka living in peace with one another.”
In a statement to TGI, Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry said, “Our law enforcement officers are required to uphold the laws of the County of Kauai, and protect and serve its people without prejudice.”
Consistent with the court order, Perry said, KPD was asked by the State’s Sheriff Division to assist in the enforcement.
“Our primary mission for today was to ensure the safety of all parties involved, which we will continue to do in all matters that we respond to,” Perry said.
Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said he empathizes with the Hawaiian community in this emotional dispute.
“As mayor, I understand the cultural and spiritual significance of this property. But above all emotions, I understand we must all follow and respect the law,” he said, stating the court’s recent decision is very clear.
“I continue to encourage all involved to move forward in a peaceful and respectful manner,” Carvalho said.
Acting State First Deputy Sheriff Robin Nagamine, the on-site operation commander, said the joint effort to enforce this judicial order required major collaboration between law enforcement agencies, the Attorney General’s Office and the property owner, along with private security officers.
As for the ejectment, Waters said Coco Palms Hui had to pay for some of the costs incurred, but declined to give an exact figure. The continued litigation in this matter, he said, has cost the company a lot of money.
Waters said he and Greene didn’t expect this to happen when they purchased the property with the intention of restoring the famed resort that was shuttered and lay in waste after Hurricane Iniki in 1992. It is where Elvis Presley was married in a scene from the movie “Blue Hawaii.”
As for Mahealani Hanie-Grace, who is facing criminal trespassing charges, she said Mau-Espirito and Hepa helped her when she didn’t have anything and was living in her truck.
“I owe Noa everything,” she said.