4 arrested after demonstrators clash with police over Kauai land rights dispute

Updated: Apr. 4, 2017 at 10:39 PM HST
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(Image: Kauai Police Dept.)
(Image: Kauai Police Dept.)
(Image: Ka'iulani Mahuka)
(Image: Ka'iulani Mahuka)

WAINIHA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four men were arrested Tuesday after blocking access to private property in Wainiha.

Kauai police said around 7:40 a.m. contractors hired by the property owner were attempting to access the land on Ananalu Road to remove a wooden structure that was illegally built.

Officers arrested Kaimi Hermosura, Noa Mau-Espiritu, Jesse Steel and Kapana Thronas-Kahoonei for trespassing and disorderly conduct.

But the dozens of demonstrators who showed up said the men were peacefully standing their ground and protecting the Wainiha land they claim is theirs by right of royal patent.

Demonstrators also said the land is a sacred Hawaiian burial site, but police say otherwise.

"As far as we know, the research that's been done, and from the county attorney, there is no burial site on that property," said Police Chief Darryl Perry.

Perry said the legal owner of the land lives on the mainland and has plans to eventually develop the site.

"I'm just really so shocked and amazed no one got hurt given the amount of police and guns that were sent to defend the rights of a so-called private-property owner," said Ka'iulani Mahuka.

Mahuka was in Wainiha and thought it was unnecessary for 30 to 50 law enforcement officers to be there.

She and other demonstrators made multiple calls to the mayor's office demanding KPD to stand down.

Officers eventually did -- and so did the contractors.

"We had no intent or anything else to aggravate the situation, but they were there to stand by to make sure no one got hurt," said Perry.

Mahuka said the fight is far from over. "Hawaiians are coming for their lands and you're going to see more and more of this going on," she said.

Perry said the department will review the officer's body cameras, but he's confident they conducted themselves professionally and respectfully.

The four men arrested are free after posting bail.

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