By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Sovereignty activists who planted a garden twice without permission near the King Kamehameha the Great statue in Hilo will be billed for the cost of removing their crops, William Aila, state Department of Land and Natural Resources chair, said Monday.
Aila said DLNR police officers photographed people on Saturday digging up grass at the Wailoa River State Recreation Area to re-establish their “Kanaka Garden,” first planted in January as a way to protest the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Agency staff had placed the grass over the dirt plot left by the initial removal of the garden on April 5.
The plain-clothed officers were at the park Saturday in “anticipation of civil disobedience,” Aila said, noting that a cease and desist order was posted at the site and delivered to Gene Tamashiro, one of the organizers.
“And, after we go through the process of identifying the individuals and calculating the costs, we will be going to take action,” he said.
No cost estimates were immediately available.
On Monday, DLNR staff were planting grass again on the site and installing an orange mesh fence with several “Keep Out” signs.
The organizers of the garden, who object to being called protesters or activists, say they started it to bring attention to the overthrow of the kingdom in 1893 and make the argument that the current government never earned lawful jurisdiction of the land. Some have also called it a puuhonua, or place of refuge.
They say they kept DLNR informed of their actions, but never asked for permission, believing that the land still belongs to the kingdom.
Aila said he didn’t have time to address the issue until April, when explaining why action wasn’t taken sooner.
Some of the protesters argued they had earned “implied consent” from the state since the garden was left untouched for over two months, and that taro had been planted around the statue months earlier.
Several of the organizers returned to the site Monday, where two days before, they held a potluck where the replanting occurred.
Tamashiro estimated 150 were present Saturday. He said he requested that no planting occur this time, saying he’d like time to propose a use agreement with the state.
“I told them to wait 10 days,” Tamashiro said. “There was dirt flying all over the place.”
Aila said an agreement will not be considered, adding that DLNR proposed another area of the park for the garden.
That offer was declined, he said.
Aila said the location near the iconic statue is too disruptive, and the agency has received complaints involving protesters being rude to tourists.
“We will work with anyone that wants to work with us in a respectful manner,” he said. “But when people are disruptive, then we will have to take the appropriate action.”
Tamashiro said he was unaware of an offer and never saw garden supporters being rude to other park users.
“He never offered us anything let a lone a plot somewhere,” he said.
While at the park Monday, a woman walked up to some of the garden supporters to express her opposition to the protest.
“I feel shameful,” said the woman, who declined to giver her name to a reporter, but described herself as half Hawaiian and half Canadian.
She said she believes the protesters should not ignore rules regarding use of the park.
“This is the time we live in,” the woman said. “We got to obey the law.”
Tamashiro said they have to stand up for the “truth,” while Simbra Lynn Kanakaole, another organizer of the garden, told her, “When America follows the law, I will follow the law.”
Albert Haa, who said he was not there to make a political stand but bring people to God, told her that he sees the garden as a spiritual place.
“I’m encouraging akua,” he said.
The woman, who later was hugged by Haa, said afterward that she still doesn’t believe in civil disobedience.
“To me, this is the wrong way,” she said.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.