HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At least five people were arrested Thursday after a self-proclaimed Polynesian sovereignty group stormed OHA’s office on Nimitz Highway, prompting an hours-long lockdown.
Police arrested 31-year-old Sadhu Bott, 62-year-old Ene Faletogo, 27-year-old Rheece Kahawai, and 36-year-old Jordan Feletogo on suspicion of third-degree assault. Remedio Dabaluz, 39, was arrested on suspicion of harassment. All have since been released on bail.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs employees were evacuated during the incident, which began at around 11 a.m., according to witnesses at the scene.
The incident appears to have started, according to sources within the agency, when an OHA employee arrived at the office’s internal reception area to check on a commotion that was being caused by the activists outside.
When the employee opened the door, the suspects allegedly rushed him in an attempt to gain access to the office, tackling him to the ground.
Sources tell Hawaii News Now that the group that stormed the building is called the Kingdom of Atooi. They allegedly told OHA employees that they were there to seize assets and arrest some of the trustees.
Members of the group were in OHA’s offices for hours, and dozens of police officers were called to the scene.
“On behalf of the board and administration, we take this matter very seriously, to protect our employees from these kinds of matters,” said Kamana’o Crabbe, OHA’s chief executive officer. “We want to thank (the Honolulu Police Department) for responding quickly and for their cooperation.”
A second OHA employee was physically assaulted during the incident, Crabbe says, though neither suffered any serious injuries. Emergency Medical Services personnel responded to the scene, but did not transport anyone to the hospital.
Several other employees were verbally assaulted, according to Crabbe.
The motives of the activist group remain unclear at this time, though the timing of today’s incident is likely tied to an important historical event — the anniversary of the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
“The sad thing for us today is that on a day of celebration of onipa’a and the significance of January 17 to native Hawaiians, that this is going to dominate the news today and not the celebration of Native Hawaiians coming together,” said Brendon Lee, the vice-chairman of OHA’s Board of Trustees.
Witnesses at the scene acknowledged that while many native Hawaiians still struggle to make their voices heard, the actions of the Atooi group on Thursday were uncalled for.
“I cannot say that I support this,” said Andre Perez, an OHA beneficiary who was at the offices during the incident. But, he added, “this is a symptom of a longstanding political history of injustice and oppression. Hawaiians are still struggling for justice.”
This story will be updated.