HILO — Abel Simeona Lui, the colorful and controversial figure behind recent acts of Hawaiian sovereignty protests and civil disobedience around the island, will spend his 70th birthday in jail Wednesday.
Lui’s one-week jail term stems from a 2010 fracas at Honuapo, or Whittington Park, in Ka‘u. The victim of the harassment, Parks Maintenance Supervisor Dennis Riordan, said Lui threatened him with his fists and shoved him up against his truck after blocking him and his crew from doing their work.
The county parks crew was spraying herbicides that Lui contended included Roundup, a poison parks staff had apparently agreed not to use. Former Parks and Recreation Director Bob Fitzgerald subsequently asked his staff to use alternative methods of weed control around the estuary at Honuapo.
“Luckily I didn’t get hurt,” Riordan told West Hawaii Today shortly after the incident. “In our society, you’re not allowed to touch public workers.”
Lui was originally charged with disorderly conduct and harassment. But the Intermediate Court of Appeals in October struck the disorderly conduct charge and ordered the 3rd Circuit Court to resentence Lui solely on the harassment charge.
Lui said Monday that Judge Joseph Florendo offered him the option of a $100 fine plus probation, but he saw that as “extortion,” and opted for the jail term instead. He was scheduled to check into the Hawaii Community Correction Center in Hilo at 6 p.m. Monday.
“I tried to make hooponopono with them,” Lui said, referring to the Hawaiian practice of making peace by negotiating a consensus. “But they still wanted the $100.”
Lui said he had a letter from his doctor saying the jail sentence could possibly kill him because of a heart condition, high blood pressure and other health issues.
It’s not Lui’s first experience with incarceration. He also served time on a manslaughter conviction after shooting a Honolulu man following a 1976 fist fight.
In October, Lui and others were evicted from county-owned land they had lived on for more than a decade at Kawa Bay. Lui was not arrested during the eviction, although one of the group was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. The eviction and destruction of a wood-frame dwelling on the property followed a state court ruling that Lui was illegally occupying the land at Kawa Bay.
More recently, Lui and 10 other Hawaiian sovereignty activists were arrested in early April and charged with illegally camping on public land after they started a garden near the King Kamehameha statue at Wailoa River State Recreation Area. Those charges are still pending.
The group replanted the garden uprooted by the police and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. The garden was again razed early Monday.