WAINIHA — The arrival of the group Love Has Won has drawn protests that started Friday afternoon and continued Saturday.
The protest, which started peacefully Friday, got rowdy late into the night, which resulted in property destruction.
Love Has Won is a religious nonprofit based in Crestone, Colorado. Its leader, who goes by “Mother God,” arrived on Kaua‘i in July, and has urged followers to join her here.
Kaua‘i residents have found the group’s ideology to be predatory of vulnerable populations, offensive and appropriative of Hawaiian culture, with the group’s leader claiming to be the Hawaiian goddess of fire, Pele.
Residents gathered around 4 p.m. Friday with signs requesting the group leave the island. Protesters surrounded the beachfront rental on all four sides, their numbers growing as residents came to check out the commotion.
Around 4:45 p.m., the first of three small bonfires was lit on the beach near the property, using driftwood. According to protesters, the fires were a symbol of purification and not as a sign of aggression.
Around 5:30 p.m. Friday, three officers with the Kaua‘i Police Department arrived to enforce social distancing, clear the roads and monitor the situation. Kaua‘i Fire Department firefighters from the Princeville station put out the bonfires around 6 p.m.
While some residents called it a night, others continued into the evening and early morning, departing from the peaceful nature of the daytime protests.
At times during the night, the police were called to the Kuhio Highway residence, where they parked in the driveway. When the officers would leave, protesters would get rowdy and disperse when police were again called back.
A firework was set off in the driveway of the residence around 11 p.m., and sounds of shattering glass and shouting were heard throughout the night, according to neighbors.
On Saturday morning, the windows and windshield of a blue Honda in the driveway of the residence had been shattered, and dents could be seen to the car’s body. It is unknown if the nonprofit or protesters did this damage.
KPD continues to monitor both the protesting and religious groups this weekend.
“Police are attempting to keep the peace and prevent any criminal behavior,” a KPD spokesperson said. “The Kaua‘i Police Department supports lawful protests, as well as the freedom of religion. However, if members of either group break the law, police will need to take appropriate action to stop the illegal behavior.”
Earlier this week, KPD thanked the community for its vigilance, but said there was no probable cause that Love Has Won members were breaking quarantines or other rules or laws.
The Love Has Won members at the Wainiha residence are not currently on quarantine. Several other members are currently in quarantine at the Kaua‘i Inn in Niumalu and have not been found to be out of compliance.
“At this time, we do not have any evidence showing that they are doing anything more than practicing their own religious beliefs,” a KPD spokesperson said last week.
Mayor Derek Kawakami joined Mel Rapozo and Charlie Iona on the pair’s online talk show Thursday, and touched on the topic.
“We have people, we have law enforcement observing the group,” Kawakami said. “So far, the reports back to me is that they are quarantining. … Until they break a law, we can observe.”
Kawakami went on to explain that he understands residents are concerned, but asked that people be open-minded. Kawakami, a Catholic, used himself as an example, saying he and his family own crystals and burn sage.
“What it boils down to is respect,” Kawakami said. “What I get, and what I hear, and what I’ve observed, is that this is an outspoken group that may not understand our culture and the way that we do things. As long as there’s a lack of respect, people are going to respond.”
As protesters gathered a second day at the residence, KPD officers shut down the highway in the area around 3 p.m., only allowing residents through.
At 4 p.m. Saturday, 24 hours since the first gathering began, protesters again filed across the street of the residence in Wainiha. Kawakami arrived at the gathering around 6 p.m. to level with the groups.
Saturday Hoku Cabebe, who was in Wainiha yesterday, went to the Kaua‘i Inn to educate those in the hotel and its staff of Love Has Won.
“We’re not going to stop until these people are off the island,” Cabebe said.
Saturday morning, Love Has Won leader Amy Carlson spoke on the group’s livestream via speakerphone.
“I’m Pele,” Carlson said as protesters are heard outside. “Do your thing, I’ll do my thing: it’s called love,” she said.
Sabrina Bodon, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.