Abel Lui, other sovereignty activists appear in court


Three sovereignty activists who were arrested on April 5 near the King Kamehameha the Great statue on the Hilo Bayfront were in Hilo District Court on Wednesday.

Judge Barbara Takase delayed hearings for Abel Simeona Lui, Simbralynn Kanakaole and Kittrena Morgan until July 24 at 1:30 p.m. All have pleaded not guilty to illegal camping at their “Kanaka Garden” near the statue of the Hawaiian monarch at the Wailoa State Recreational Area.

Lui and Kanakaole refused to cross the bar to the defense table when their names were called. Defense attorney Ivan Van Leer cited “jurisdictional issues” as the reason for requesting the delay. Lui advised Morgan to do the same, but after the two conferred, Morgan went to the defense table.

The activists had twice planted taro, once in January, the second time in April, as a way to protest the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said the garden was planted without permission and its officers re-sodded the spot where the garden was planted.

“We gave these people notice that we was gonna do one vigil, that we’re here for that, nothin’ else. And the next thing you know, we all got arrested. So here we are,” the 69-year-old Lui said afterward. “The county and the state says they own the land. Then come on, bring down you guys documents, whatever evidence that says you own it. That includes DLNR, who says they own the land. Where are you guys documents?

“This is crown land. That guy who is standing right there (Kamehameha I), it belongs to his people. And I’m an heir to all of that. That’s what gives us the right to be here. If the other people in the community can grow one garden (but) when it comes to the kanaka, cannot, I call that discrimination.”

Lui, Morgan and Kanakaole were among 11 people arrested at the park for alleged illegal camping. The cases of Leah Burns, Rosa Motta, Lucas Manzano-Hill, Melchizedek Navarro are still pending, while Ryan Poulsen, Ian Sawyer, Yodar Farrell and Patricia Clough have all pleaded no contest and were sentenced to a day in jail.