HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Iolani Palace is closed this weekend after a break in at the palace Friday night pits an anti-government group against the state. About two dozen people are in jail Saturday night for that. The scuffle has sparked another issue: Honolulu police are under fire tonight after some in the public accuse officers of not doing enough to help a woman assaulted in that break in.
This is what greeted visitors on Saturday: chains around the gates of Iolani Palace. Alison Meyer is from New York. She was hoping to see the palace before she leaves, but it appears that won't happen. "That was our plan this morning to come to the palace, check things out. This is the only palace in the US, but here we are, standing on the outside, looking in the gate. It was disappointing."
The state closed the palace this weekend after a native Hawaiian sovereignty group briefly took control of the grounds of the palace Friday afternoon at around 4:30 p.m. Some four hours later, state sheriffs arrived and, with the help of Honolulu police, started arresting people. State Department of Land and Natural Resources director Laura Theielen described what happened. "We came to the property, unlocked the gates, and arrested in excess of 20 people."
Law enforcement arrested about 2 dozen protesters. "We intend to bring charges," warned Theielen. Chopper 8 is over the only royal palace in the country, now closed as the state investigates Friday night's break in. Theielen detailed the work ahead. "We are going to close the palace grounds and the palace through the weekend. We need to look through the property and building to determine if anything was damaged."
A 67 year old retired construction worker claims to head the group Kingdom of Hawaii. "I hold a clear title everything," insisted Akahi Nui, self-proclaimed King of Hawaii, speaking with a thick accent to reporters at a press conference outside the closed gates on Saturday.
A female palace worker accuses the group of assaulting her during the takeover on Friday. Akahi Nui denies it and told reporters the woman was drunk. "She said we hit her. We don't hit nobody. We are not violence people."
The woman also says a Honolulu policeman would not help her, because the federal property is not his jurisdiction. Kippen de Alba Chu, Executive Director of Iolani Palace, said in a statement he is "outraged that a native Hawaiian group would choose this type of behavior, in the presence of an historic, treasured landmark such as Iolani Palace. I personally witnessed one of our staff members being physically assaulted by a member of the Kingdom of Hawaii Nation. ...A police officer standing by did nothing to help her, saying that it was not his jurisdiction. At one point during the evening the alarms went off in the barracks building and our security staff called 911. They were told it was not 911's jurisdiction and to call the state. This extraordinary landmark and the people who care for it deserve every protection the state and our local police force can muster."
Honolulu police chief Boisse Correa issued a rebuttal statement on Saturday defending his officers. "HPD's position has always been to provide full support for any law enforcement agency that requests it. The individuals who were arrested had clearly violated the law. In this instance, our assistance was requested by the Department of Public Safety, which was assisting the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the agency that is responsible for security of Iolani Palace. As a result of the request, I authorized that all necessary resources be provided. The actions taken by our officers last night were appropriate. Although no formal complaint has been made, I am aware of the allegations regarding our initial response and have directed that an internal review be conducted."
This was the second time a sovereignty group locked the palace gates this year. The group called Hawaiian Kingdom Government occupied the grounds on April 30,2008. In regards to that break in, de Alba Chu said in a statement, "As a matter of historical record, we wish to point out that the original seat of government of the Hawaiian Kingdom was NOT Iolani Palace. The Palace was the royal RESIDENCE. Government activities were carried out in the original Courthouse (now demolished), then later in Aliiolani Hale.
Claiming that Iolani Palace was the seat of government actually supports those who overthrew the Hawaiian kingdom. It was they who intentionally renamed the Palace to be their "Executive Building" to show that by seizing this symbolic structure and utilizing it for mere offices and meeting rooms, they were now in control, and the alii were powerless. The Provisional Government (Jan. 1893-July 1894) and later the government of the Republic of Hawaii (July 1894-Aug. 1898) worked openly to wipe out physical vestiges of the alii in the Palace by auctioning off its contents, thus further cementing the perception of the Palace as a purely government building."