The Kauai County prosecutor has declined to pursue trespassing and interfering with a government agent charges against Native Hawaiian activist Robin Danner and her son, Garrett Danner, that grew out of a confrontation in Anahola last month.
The Danners were arrested by Kauai Police Department officers after they allegedly trespassed on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands property near Kumu Camp, which Robin Danner founded and administers, adjoining Anahola Beach Park at one of the few oceanfront sites owned by DHHL.
On Oct. 18, DHHL enforcement officers, supported by 10 KPD officers, arrived at the location ostensibly to evict a man described as a volunteer caretaker responsible for maintaining a small section at the south end of the beach on which Kumu Camp fronts. DHHL officers contended that the man, Keikilani Pa, was on the property illegally because Danner and her organization lack legal authority to grant permission for Pa’s presence.
The incident was part of a much larger dispute between Danner and DHHL over who has proper legal access rights to Kumu Camp. It is a dispute that has dragged on for years, through a series of DHHL administrations.
Several weeks before the incident that led to the arrests, DHHL personnel cited Kumu Camp for constructing an allegedly illegal wood platform for a neighborhood watch program.
DHHL had also threatened to remove the platform and to force Pa from his beachfront encampment.
As the incident evolved, Danner on several occasions demanded more detailed explanations of why DHHL had legal authority to take the action. After about an hour, she and her son were arrested for allegedly trespassing on DHHL land and interfering with government agents.
However, on Tuesday, Kauai County Prosecutor Justin Kollar declined to move forward with the case.
A statement from his office gave no reason for the decision, but Kollar has said in the past he is reluctant to prosecute crimes seemingly driven only by protected political speech.
The Danners were booked and released on $100 bail, but did not have a court date to answer the charges.
KPD declined to comment on the prosecutor’s decision.
In an emailed statement from Washington, where she is traveling, Danner said: “The entire experience, the indignity I witnessed by my government, the harassment of DHHL toward one houseless man, was totally unexpected. I truly want to see the governor review the type of training these (DHHL enforcement officers) receive because what happened that day was senseless and cruel.
“For sure, I will take the experience of what they plotted and did to Keiki Pa, and subsequently to me for merely trying to help him hold onto his belongings, with me in my policy advocacy work, in my community development work. I was given such a small glimpse that day, but I will not forget it, nor will I kneel to abusive behavior by government officials.”
Garrett Danner released his own statement, saying: “I am very happy for the dismissal so that my family does not have to go through the ordeal of a trial. On the other hand I feel cheated. I knew that the actions by DHHL and KPD were handled poorly and unprofessionally. They showed off their arrogance, ego, lack of empathy, lack of understanding or willingness to understand and their unchecked power of authority that they wield.”
DHHL, for its part, contended that the dispute was driven by the fact that Robin Danner’s organization allegedly lacks proper legal authorization to occupy the Kumu Camp property, an issue that has been in controversy for several years.
In a statement, DHHL said: “It is regrettable anytime law enforcement needs to be involved in a land dispute, but the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands maintains its position that Ms. Danner does not have a current land disposition in the area adjacent to Anahola Beach Park and had no legal authority to allow Mr. Keikilani Pa to reside there.
“The enforcement action could have been avoided had Ms. Danner and Mr. Pa complied with the removal of their illegal encampment.”
Allan Parachini is a Kilauea-based freelance writer and furniture maker. He has more than 45 years’ experience in journalism.