PAPA’A — What was supposed to be a beach-access celebration Sunday turned into a confrontation between police and community members trying to access Papa’a Bay.
Four people were arrested for trying to enter land at the end of the disputed government road on the property owned by Peter Guber and Mandalay Properties LLC.
After chanting a Hawaiian blessing while holding the hands of his four daughters, David Denson, clad in a shirt saying “Our rights not 4 sale” and “P.A.S.H.” charged toward the nearly 10-foot gate with barbed wire at the top.
He was stopped by police as he tried to walk around the gate. When he tried to cross around the gate a second time, he was arrested.
While cops handcuffed Denson, others tried to walk through the brush around the gate on the other side. Police stopped those people, and Ka’iulani Edens-Huff, Evelyn de Buhr, and Liko Martin were arrested.
All four were arrested for trespassing, said Lt. Roy Asher of the Kaua’i Police Department.
Three of those arrested were trying to exercise their Public Access Shoreline Hawai’i rights, said one of the community activists, who would not allow her name to be used.
PASH rights, which give Hawaiians the right to practice their hunting, gathering, and spiritual traditions, are protected by Hawai’i state law.
Before the arrests, approximately 75 people, including community and Native Hawaiian activists, local residents and even visitors, were met at the gate by over 10 police officials including Acting Chief Wilfred Ihu, a local representative for Guber, Keith Vito, and Guber’s Honolulu attorney, Paul Alston.
The gate marks the end of the government property and the beginning of Guber’s private property, said Alston.
But some Kaua’i residents believe the road, extending from Papa’a Road, is a state road that leads directly to the beach.
Peter Waldau handed out copies of the Fifth Circuit Court’s “Final Decree” in 1938 that states in five places “the Government Road thirty feet wide leading to Papa’a Beach.” Lt. Asher and Alston both took copies, and Waldau said he has sent one to the mayor’s office as well.
“This is not the place to do that,” Asher said of Waldau’s Circuit Court paperwork. “There is an alternative to this. But if you trespass, we’ll do what we have to do. As far as the direction we had, the road ends” at the fence, said Asher.
Greg Osborn, a Moloa’a resident, asked Alston if Guber (who was not present) would acquiesce and let the group down to the beach for an hour.
“One hour,” Osborn said. “We can consider this a success, and a starting point in negotiations. Otherwise, Guber becomes a big villain.”
But Alston refused, saying later that ownership of the land is not disputed — it is Guber’s.
“Clearly, people are concerned with beach access, but not here. They are absolutely wrong,” said Alston. “If they think they have a legal right, they should go to court, not go on somebody’s land.”
“It is unfortunate it came down this way,” he added. “Very much so.”
“The people have an inherent right” to this access, said Hawaiian sovereignty advocate Kane Pa. “How come rich people can use the beach?”
The other access to Papa’a Bay, he said, involves going down a cliff and walking over a rocky path.
“The government is using (police) officials to keep out the public,” he said. “The corruption in this government needs to be exposed.”
He added that the land along the road used to be pineapple fields, and he used to go fishing with his father on that beach, using the road on which he stood.
“The gate needs to be opened,” he said. “I have my small daughter here. When I leave (the Earth), what is she going to be left with?”
“We are trying to get the message out, and we will try to work with the landowners” to restore beach access, said Pa.
Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste, who was not there, said in a statement both before and after the event that the police were there doing their job, and he warned in a statement printed twice in earlier editions of The Garden Island that arrests would be made if people violated trespassing regulations.
“The Kaua’i Police Department reminds the public that while the issue of legal access to Papa’a Bay is still being addressed, department officials still have the responsibility of responding to trespassing complaints,” said the county statement printed earlier.
“KPD officials warn the public that should a situation near Papa’a Bay on Sunday warrant action, police officers are prepared to issue citations and even make arrests.”
“Both the mayor and the police are under oath to uphold the law. Police had to do their job based on the legal information that they had,” said Cyndi Mei Ozaki, county public information officer on Sunday.
“He (Baptiste) is committed to continually working with the community to obtain access to Papa’a Bay, working through the legal process,” Ozaki added.
She added that if the information the community produced is determined to be valid, the mayor will make sure access is restored.
If the documentation is not valid under the law, Baptiste will continue to work with the community to obtain access to Papa’a Bay through other alternatives, Ozaki explained.
All four who were arrested were bailed out by funds gathered through a collection hat passed out near the gate, said a community activist. She added that will be arraigned Thursday, Feb. 5.
Staff Writer Tom Finnegan may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.