WAINIHA — Four people claiming ownership of land by right of royal patent were arrested Tuesday in Wainiha following a demonstration to protect a Hawaiian burial site.
Kaimi Hermosura and Noa Mau-Espiritu were arrested for disorderly conduct and each posted $50 bail, according to a Kauai police release. Jesse Steel was arrested for disorderly conduct and trespassing and posted $100 bail. Kapana Thronas-Kahoonei was arrested for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse and posted $150 bail.
“No one broke any law at the moment. No one said anything of a threat. No one made a threat. No one had weapons on the property but KPD,” said Kamuela Hepa Kapule O Kamehameha, who witnessed the arrests. “Why would you come to a peaceful (demonstration) with weapons? That’s not peaceful.”
Hermosura, a Wainiha man, claims ownership of the land in question via royal land patent. Mau-Espirito is a Native Hawaiian who says he’s a descendant of King Kaumualii who has staked claim to property at Coco Palms.
“We are continuing to gather more information on this incident, but I am confident that our officers conducted themselves professionally and respectfully to ensure the safety of all involved,” KPD Chief Darryl Perry said.
Police received a complaint about 7:40 a.m. Tuesday regarding individuals who were reportedly blocking access to the entrance of private property at 4600 Ananalu Road in Wainiha.
Contractors hired by the property owner were reportedly attempting to access the property to remove an illegal wooden structure that was erected on the property without the owner’s permission.
Parties associated with the contractors and property owner did not respond to requests for comment.
Officers arrived at the scene and located four individuals blocking access to the property.
Officers notified the individuals of the violation, and they refused to vacate the premises. The violators were arrested. All were booked at the Lihue police station and have since been released after posting bail.
“We’re coming for our land with our royal patents,” said Kaiulani Mahuka, who was present at Wainiha Tuesday. “Fairly quickly, the boys were arrested and hauled out of there for inciting a riot and disorderly conduct.”
In a video recorded by Mahuka, police in vests allow a backhoe to enter the property to demolish the wooden structure.
“Our ohana sleeps over here,” pleads a woman in the video, referring to kupuna buried at the site. “This is my aina. My people is resting in peace. Leave them alone.”
“This property here has been taken care of those boys who you took away,” she continues. “They’re not criminals. Bring them back home. How dare you guys remove them.”
At least 15 KPD officers were present at the scene in the video, with several residents recording on their phones.
Kapule O Kamehameha said Mau-Espirito did not commit any crime.
“He said, ‘This is war crimes,’ and said what he had to say. They just grabbed him and arrested him on the spot,” Kapule O Kamehameha said. “What did he do wrong? No crime was presented. No words were given out. No act of a threat.”
Witnesses say dozens of people demonstrated against the desecration of burial land.
“We’re not doing nothing wrong. We’re peacefully growing on the land and we’re the ones being disturbed,” Kapule O Kamehameha said.
TGI reporter Jenna Carpenter contributed to this story.