LIHUE — An eclectic crowd gathered on the steps of the Kauai courthouse Friday to watch as several tiny land parcels were sold to the highest bidder.
The auction itself was a subdued affair. The appointed land commissioner, Lihue attorney Patrick Childs, announced the bids, and called for competing offers in a voice that was barely audible even for those standing a few feet away. Childs stood with a legal pad, recording the bids of attorneys Harvey Cohen and Craig De Costa, who represented opposing sides of the land dispute.
Cohen bid on behalf of Carlos Andrade, a retired college professor who initiated the legal proceedings which ultimately led to the court-ordered auction. De Costa represented a relatively small consortium of Andrade’s distant cousins, some of the defendants among hundreds named in the quiet title lawsuit, each with tiny ownership shares in their family’s land.
Behind the bidders, a semicircle of Hawaiians spread out in a colorful array of red and yellow. They made no secret of the fact that their native lands were being sold without their consent. Their voices echoed in the cement basin of the courthouse entrance.
Attorneys for the law firm representing Zuckerberg’s interest in the kuleana perched in a row along the railing of a wheelchair ramp adjacent to the courthouse wall. Some leaned over the railing as the auction got underway.
“Zuckerberg and the Rapozos. Here we go,” said one protester. “A family against a billionaire. That’s what this is. One family against a billionaire.”
The first parcel went to De Costa and his group of clients. The virtually-undeveloped plot of land barely more than a tenth of an acre sold for $700,000.
“Seven-hundred-thousand for our ‘aina! A 125 years!” he said, incredulous at the sale of land that has been in his family’s possession for over a century.
“Mark couldn’t even show up in person?” the man asked. “Couldn’t show up in person for our ‘aina?”
The auction finished minutes after it started, and most in attendance had little idea exactly what went down. Many learned the event had concluded only when the immediate huddle around the land commissioner began to disperse.
“It was not loud enough yet,” Nani Rogers told everyone. “No microphone. Didn’t know what the heck was going on.”
Cohen had purchased the remaining three kuleana on Andrade’s behalf for a combined total of just over $1 million.
“Wow, one million dollars,” one woman said upon hearing the news, her voice thick with sarcasm. “I wonder where he got one million dollars from?”
Kimberly Souza, a Hawaiian woman in a beautiful red dress, shouted shame at the whole process.
“The ‘aina is not for sale!” she said. “This cannot happen!”
“Now you like sell the kuleana land, too? Oh, now you asking for problems!” she told the land commissioner, Childs, as he walked away. Her voice turned vicious. “Give us back our land so we not living down the beach!”
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.