Beach confrontations over the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals are spilling over into Hawaii's courtrooms.
In a lawsuit filed in state Circuit Court, a woman known for helping rescue seals said she's being harassed by volunteers for a nonprofit group that works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors monk seals in Hawaiian waters.
"I feel very worried and threatened about my personal safety when I'm on the beach and (Hawaii Marine Mammal Alliance) volunteers are around," said Hawaiian Monk Seal advocate Zeenat Mian.
The suit alleges that in July 2016 one volunteer shoved an "umbrella into her face so hard ... she broke the umbrella." A few days after that, another volunteer at Mokuleia "stalked and then literally chased her from the beach to her vehicle."
One confrontation, captured on video in 2015, shows a volunteer knocked her cell phone out of her hand. The woman was charged with harassment but was found not guilty.
Mian is also seeking temporary restraining orders against several volunteers in separate legal actions.
The nonprofit HMMA declined comment. Several volunteers are pursuing their own TROs against Mian, which will be heard in District Court on Friday.
Environmental activist Carroll Cox said he witnessed similar abusive behavior by a volunteer two weeks ago at Kaena Point. He says the volunteers aren't properly trained in dealing with the public.
"One of the volunteers screamed on numerous occasions to different people, screaming, yelling get away, stay back, you've gotten too close," said Cox.