WAILUA — A day after a group of people occupying Coco Palms were issued trespassing notices, about 60 people gathered to show support.
“We don’t know what to expect right now. They came here yesterday like bullies. KPD has done jobs that were good, but right now this was not some place they should be. There’s worse things going on,” said Kimberly Souza, one of 15 people issued notices on Thursday. “Now we’re standing up for what is right. Living here has made me peaceful and it’s given me an understanding of life and full circle — spirituality.”
According to Kauai County spokeswoman Sarah Blane, a Coco Palms property owner filed a complaint, prompting police to issue the notices. No arrests were made nor was anyone escorted off property, she said.
Kamuela Kapule O Kamehameha, who said he is a descendant of Queen Deborah Kapule, said the notice gave the group 24 hours to vacate.
Police, however, didn’t show up Friday afternoon.
Joseph Kekauliki Kamai was surprised when police gave out notices around midday Thursday.
“We’re not rich like the guy who has the hotel. These guys can pay for whatever they need. They should understand that the land rightfully belong to our families. We are the heirs to the throne,” he said. “We have the right to claim what belongs to our families. They’re going to push the issue to get everybody out. We’ve invested our blood and our sweat to this land to help and clean and take care of our iwi kupuna.”
Other recent trespass complaints at Coco Palms were reported to KPD on Feb. 11 and March 11, Blane said.
State officials said the state land is leased to Coco Palms.
Tyler Greene, co-owner of Coco Palms Hui, said the county recognizes Coco Palms Hui as the owners of the land. He did not respond to requests for comment Friday. He previously told The Garden Island there were trespassers at Coco Palms and he was working with the county prosecutor’s office on the matter.
Kapule O Kamehameha said he and his ohana have a royal patent called Palapala Sila Nui, which they say gives their family the rights to the land in perpetuity.
The group of about 25 of his formerly homeless family members continue to live on 17 acres of land on Coco Palms property.
Since taking up residence on the property, Kapule O Kamehameha said the group has been farming, fishing and clearing brush.
“It’s weird how our people are homeless in our own home,” he said. “All the kalo and all the cleanup is all by our hard work, by hand, our sweat. The kalo is to feed our society, our people, our community.”
Kapule O Kamehameha said it’s his kuleana to restore and perpetuate the culture.
“We’re doing all cultural practices which is legal, like restoring our fishponds that we have here by my grandma Queen Deborah Kapule,” he said.
Greene and his partner, Chad Waters, have been trying to restore Coco Palms since 2012. The resort closed in 1992 after it was damaged by Hurricane Iniki.
During public hearings on the Coco Palms restoration project, and decades prior as it sat shuttered, no one claimed land ownership.
The $3.5 million selective demolition process began in June. By spring 2018 crews are expected to start Phase II, renovation and reconstruction, of Coco Palms.
The $175 million project will boast 350 rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.
Kamai, who resides on the property, said it will be hard to let go if evicted.
“It’s not right for them to be doing what they’re doing,” he said. “We’re trying to grow our medicine, growing food for our people and we’re taking care of the iwi kupuna. What have we done wrong? We’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Kalamaok‘aina Niheu supported the group on Friday.
“All the land in Hawaii are under contest. There’s certain places like this. You look at the raw material struggles and trauma our people are going through right now,” she said. “When the people stand up and create their own systems of healing, their own strategies of moving forward, they always crack down on us, oppress us, rip us off of these solutions.”
Kapule O Kamehameha hopes to solve the matter in civil court.
“Give us the fighting chance in court that we’re in. On May 17, we’re going to see what happens,” he said. “If the alternative happens, we will get off.”