Authorities clear occupiers from historic Coco Palms property

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

WAILUA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A growing group of occupiers was cleared from the Coco Palms property on Thursday, and at least one person was arrested.

Officials said a 23-year-old woman was taken into custody for criminal trespassing.

A judge had ordered activists to leave back in January, but they remained on property, prompting the resort's developer to contact state sheriffs and Kauai police.

Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry said in a statement that officers are "required to uphold the laws" of the state.

"Consistent with the court order, we were asked by the state's Sheriff Division to assist" at the property, he said. "Our primary mission for today was to ensure the safety of all parties involved, which we will continue to do in all matters that we respond to."

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety said state deputy sheriffs ordered occupiers on the property to vacate about 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

A total of 25 deputy sheriffs were on site, along with police and law enforcement from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"It's not their fault," said activist Noa Mau-Espirito, referring to the officers. "They just following orders. The guys they following orders from, we coming for you, just know."

About 20 Native Hawaiians have been occupying the land since at least March 2017. They claim to be descendants of Kauai's last king and also said they had the proper documents that give them rights to the land that the iconic resort sits on.

Keala Lopez, who has been on the property for a couple months, says they were caught completely off guard.

"I am still processing being thrown out of my hale and being ripped from the aina that was feeding us. It's sad to see that we have to go through all of this drama and these politics and ridiculousness to save the aina and protect the aina," Lopez said.

Lopez says the group has a meeting with the attorney general's office on Friday.

The hotel was Kauai's premier island resort in the 1950s and 1960s. Blue Hawaii, a film featuring Elvis Presley, was also filmed on location at the hotel.

But in 1992, Hurricane Iniki left the resort in shambles, where it sat in disrepair for more than 25 years.

In June last year, long-awaited demolition plans began, and the $135 million project to renovate and reopen the hotel got underway.

Developer Coco Palms Hui plans to open the new resort under the Hyatt's luxury collection in 2019.

This story will be updated.

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