Abel Simeona Lui stands in front of the leveled garden that once grew taro in front of the Kamehameha statue on Friday afternoon.
Abel Simeona Lui talks with the Hawaii Tribune-Herald about being evicted from gardening and camping at the Kamehameha statue in Hilo.
By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Police uprooted activists from the Wailoa River State Recreation Area on Friday morning over two months after they began planting taro and other crops in protest of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Eleven people, who were sleeping in a tent near the King Kamehameha statue, were arrested and charged with illegally camping on public land, the activists said.
Each had posted bail, though most are not intending to pay the $30 fine, said Leah Burns, one of those arrested.
Police and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which owns the park, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment late Friday afternoon.
On Wednesday, a DLNR spokeswoman said in an email that the department was reviewing its “options for appropriate action to resolve this situation.”
The activists said that between 30 and 50 officers from the Hawaii County Police Department, Hawaii state Sheriffs Division, and DLNR staff arrived at about 4:30 a.m. to remove the activists and their crops, which included taro, aloe and coconut palms.
The arrests occurred a day before the Merrie Monarch parade, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. today at the statue where the “Kanaka Garden” was planted.
The activists said they plan to hold a “vigil” there at 8 a.m. today to continue their protest of the arrests, the overthrow of the kingdom, and the annexation to the United States, which they say is illegal since there was no treaty of annexation.
“The stage has been set for all people to choose which side of the truth they are going to make their stand for Hawaii and akua,” said Gene Tamashiro, a founder of Aloha Uprising and the garden.
The removal of the garden proved emotional for some of the activists who gathered at the bare plot that afternoon.
Tears ran down the cheek of Abel Lui, one of those arrested, as he talked about the loss of the plants and the issue of Hawaiian sovereignty.
“Taro is our native food. How can we not plant it in our own backyard?” he said.
The activists acknowledge they didn’t ask permission to start the garden, which began on Jan. 17, the 120th anniversary of the overthrow of the kingdom. Nor did they seek permission to camp in the park.
They contend DLNR has no jurisdiction over the park, since it is former crown land, which they say still belongs to the kingdom.
While told they would be arrested if they started planting again, Tamashiro indicated he was not deterred.
“Absolutely,” he said, when asked if the garden would be re-established.
“I’m not afraid of arrest.”
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.