ANAHOLA — Prominent Native Hawaiian activist Robin Danner and her son were arrested Wednesday during a confrontation with state Department of Hawaiian Home Land enforcement officers and officers of the Kauai Police Department over a disputed campsite near Anahola Beach Park.
Danner, 55, and her son, Garrett, 34, were booked at KPD headquarters on trespassing and government obstruction charges for allegedly interfering with a DHHL raid on an encampment linked to an ongoing dispute between the agency and the Anahola Hawaiian Homestead Association.
The controversy centers on the encampment and a Neighborhood Watch platform constructed about a quarter mile away at the organization’s Kumu Camp facility.
The dispute boiled over on Sept. 21 when DHHL personnel — also assisted by KPD — issued a citation saying the platform had been constructed illegally. The agency also contended that the encampment raided on Wednesday and occupied by a man described as a volunteer caretaker with ties to the homestead association amounted to trespassing on DHHL property.
Wednesday’s raid involved five KPD patrol units and between 10 and 12 officers, though no supervisor was dispatched. It was not clear how much KPD supervisors knew about the raid in advance and why so many officers were sent, whether they were on overtime or whether normal KPD patrol resources were stripped from the island to allow the raid to occur. Also present were four men who identified themselves as DHHL “enforcement officers,” based on Oahu.
The occupant of the alleged illegal encampment, Keikilani Pa, was present during the confrontation on Wednesday but was not arrested. However, a large volume of what appeared to be Pa’s property was removed from his campsite and loaded onto a truck by DHHL-contracted earthmoving equipment or piled at the roadside for later disposal.
Pa was described by Danner as a “steward” who takes care of part of an oceanfront tract that includes Kumu Camp, as well as beaches all the way to a stream that fronts Anahola Beach Park. Danner said Pa was authorized to be there. DHHL, Danner contended in an interview after her release, operates as “an enforcement agency with no training.”
“This was political payback,” she charged. “It was punishment for not going along to get along. I am an example of every other Hawaiian who they are looking at as compliant cattle.”
In cellphone video recorded at the incident, DHHL personnel can be heard to say that property confiscated at the scene would be held for 30 days, but they did not respond to requests for clarification about what would happen to it then.
The same cellphone video, recorded by Garrett Danner, also depicted a brief moment of tension when Pa put on a backpack that apparently contained two machetes. It was not clear if he remembered the items were in the pack. DHHL personnel can be heard calling KPD attention to what appeared to be weapons. KPD officers immediately ordered first Pa, then Danner — who had taken the machetes from the pack to lay them on the ground — to release control. As officers issued the order, one KPD officer could be seen briefly unholstering what appeared to be a Taser.
KPD released a statement late Wednesday that said: “DHHL officials conducted an operation today to evict an unauthorized occupant on state property, and Kauai police were asked to stand by and assist if necessary. As the DHHL contractors were removing the individual’s personal items, two Anahola residents came onto the property and refused to leave despite multiple warnings. They were both subsequently arrested by police.”
DHHL released a statement attributed to its deputy director, William J. Aila Jr., saying: “On Wednesday, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands removed an illegal structure occupying an area adjacent to Anahola Beach Park on Kauai. Mr. Pa had been given written notice to vacate the premises by the DHHL and was also issued a trespassing notice by the Kauai Police Department (KPD) in the weeks leading up to today’s removal.
“Mr. Pa simply did not have permission to occupy that space. It’s important to remember that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has a trust responsibility to preserve open spaces like this for all beneficiaries.”
The Danners were released on $100 bail each a couple of hours after they were arrested. Robin Danner said she was told she had a court date that conflicts with an appearance she is scheduled to make at a national conference on access to capital by Native Hawaiian beneficiaries. She spends much of her time traveling — often to federal government and other events all over the country.
The controversy is related to formation by AHHA of the Anahola Neighborhood Security Watch, a project organized by Robin Danner to counter drug dealing and other alleged illegal activities along a stretch of beach that runs from Kumu Camp to Anahola Beach Park.
A tax map showing the boundaries of Kumu Camp, for which Danner’s organization has legal right of occupancy, appears to show that the property extends to the Olokauha Stream, which abuts Anahola Beach Park. The area subject to the Wednesday raid appears to be included in the TMK that defines the Kumu Camp property. It was not clear why DHHL believed an authorized occupant of Kumu Camp grounds would be trespassing.
On Oct. 3, Kauai County Council Chair Mel Rapozo wrote to DHHL Director Jobie Masagatani that Danner’s neighborhood watch group members “are committed to creating a safer community for their children.”
Wednesday’s raid apparently occurred without warning, after DHHL received Rapozo’s letter and also after Danner’s group filed a lengthy Sept. 30 response to DHHL’s citation and other enforcement activities. Copies of Rapozo’s letter and the Danner response were obtained by TGI.
Rapozo, who is actively campaigning in the mayoral election, did not respond to an emailed request for comment. There is no record that DHHL responded to either Rapozo or the letter from the Homestead Community Development Corp., which Robin Danner also heads.
Shortly before she was taken into custody, Danner accused DHHL enforcement personnel of acting illegally and standing in the way of her organization’s efforts “to provide homes to DHHL beneficiaries.” She accused DHHL personnel of threatening her with arrest because she swore at them.
“I can swear any amount I want,” she said. “I am not going to be emotionally and physically abused by my own government.”
Shortly after her release, an enraged Danner contended that the incident represented a “concentration camp mentality” on the part of DHHL.
“They treated us as if we are cattle,” she said, quipping that DHHL might actually stand for “Department of Hawaiian Harassment on our Lands.”
Allan Parachini is a retired public relations executive and Kilauea resident who writes periodically for The Garden Island.
Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct that Mel Rapozo wrote a letter to DHHL and did not file a protest. He also received one request for comment. The story indicated he received more than one.