Monday, August 18, 2008

HONOLULU | A group of Native Hawaiians claiming to be the state’s legitimate rulers occupied the grounds of a historic palace for two hours before being arrested by state officers in the second recent takeover of its kind.

A staff member of the Iolani Palace said she was assaulted and slightly injured during the takeover Friday night, then snubbed by city police who claimed they didn’t have jurisdiction.

Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, said Saturday that there would be an investigation into the police response to the takeover.

A group of men, wearing red shirts with “security” stenciled in yellow on the back, took over the grounds by chaining the gates of the palace next to the state Capitol and posted signs saying: “Property of the Kingdom of Hawaiian Trust.”

Kippen de Alba Chu, executive director of the Friends of Iolani Palace, said he and other staff members were locked down in the palace and a nearby administration building during the takeover.

“They’ve got a king, and the king wants to sit on the throne,” Mr. de Alba Chu said.

State law officers climbed over the fence a couple of hours after the takeover began and made 22 arrests. Fourteen were charged with criminal trespassing and were released after posting $50 bail. Eight were being held on charges of burglary for purportedly forcing their way into the palace.

The palace, normally open to tours, was to remain closed during the weekend to assess any damage and to ensure its security, police said.

Ah Yuen, an Iolani Palace employee, said she was assaulted by protesters and called for help from a Honolulu police officer, who told her the palace grounds were not under city police jurisdiction.

Witnesses said the confrontation started when Ms. Yuen went to the palace gate and talked with the protesters, who locked the gate with a chain and then forced their way into the palace itself before officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources came to arrest them.

The governor promised an investigation and said the people who invaded the palace “have to be shown it’s not going to be acceptable.”

“This is one of the most cherished sites in our state,” Mrs. Lingle said. “We always have to try to strike a balance between public access and security for the building and for the people there.”

Laura H. Thielen, director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees the palace, condemned the takeover.

“We intend to charge them to the fullest extent of the law,” Ms. Thielen said.

The pro-sovereignty group identified its leader as King Akahi Nui, who was among those arrested. An “occupation public information bulletin” distributed by a member of the group began: “Majesty Akahi Nui, the King of Hawaii, has now reoccupied the throne of Hawaii. The Kingdom of Hawaii is now re-enacted.”

Akahi Nui claims to have been coronated in 1998.

The takeover of the palace - built in 1882 when the islands were ruled by a monarchy - came on Admission Day, a state holiday marking Hawaii’s admission to the United States on Aug. 21, 1959.

Several Native Hawaiian organizations have rival claims to sovereignty over the islands.

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