Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry said Friday that he will work in conjunction with the County Prosecutor’s Office to secure arrest warrants for individuals who trespassed on a beachfront Ha‘ena property Thursday to protest the planned construction of a home above some 30 iwi, or graves.
At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, surveyors working onsite gave way to the protestors, who occupied the property undisturbed for around eight hours.
At least eight members of the group, anticipating arrest, intended to link themselves together with self-releasing lock-down devices. However, the more than half-dozen police officers who waited on the street throughout the day did not make any arrests.
Perry told The Garden Island that when he and other officers went to the property, owned by Joseph Brescia, to talk to the protestors that evening, they had already dispersed.
Perry said the KPD was analyzing photographs and other information to determine the identities of some 15 demonstrators, who would then be served with papers charging them with criminal trespass in the second degree, a petty misdemeanor.
A phone message left for County Prosecuting Attorney Craig De Costa was not returned as of press time.
“If that’s the channel they have to take, then that’s their decision,” said Keli‘i Collier, a spokesman for the protesters. “They’re going to try to quietly pick us off, one by one, hidden from the view of the public. It’s a new tactic to try to dismember this movement.”
Collier added, however, that KPD has shown “respect, compassion and understanding” and that Perry, personally, has been both “empathetic” and “sympathetic” to their cause.
“It’s not an attack on the KPD or the workers trying to feed their families,” Collier said. “We are just trying to protect the sanctity and peace of our kapuna.
“We expected a reaction from the authorities, but it doesn’t diminish our commitment to the iwi,” said Collier, who said the group will return if construction commences.
In a civil lawsuit filed June 5, Brescia is seeking temporary restraining orders and injunctions against protester defendants Jeff Chandler, Ka‘iulani Edens-Huff, Puanani Rogers, Dayne Gonsalves, Louise Listman and Hale Mawae, according to electronic court records.
Attorney Alan Murakami of the Honolulu-based Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. filed a counterclaim on behalf of Chandler July 18 seeking to halt construction on the property until the suit is adjudicated.
On Thursday, 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe will decide whether or not to grant the temporary injunction. She previously declined to grant a temporary restraining order in late July.
As recently as June 25, Perry, citing a law protecting Hawaiian burial grounds, was at the site, turning away workers about to start construction.
In December, some 30 burials were discovered on the property during an archaeological survey. The Kaua‘i Island Burial Council determined in April that the sites must be left in place in order for construction to begin.
Brescia has been trying to build a home on the site since 2001.