A prominent group of Native Hawaiian leaders gathered this morning to speak out against the 13 men who stormed the Office of Hawaiian Affairs offices last week in a failed attempt to seize the agency and its assets.
The group, a collective of individuals, family members and organizations, stood together in solidarity, and called, as well, for a greater level of accountability from the men who committed the acts, as well as from law enforcement to exact the appropriate punishment.
Kuhio Lewis, CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, read a statement on behalf of the group, which included kumu hula, educators and well-respected community leaders.
”We denounce the acts of this group and the pain and suffering they inflicted, and call upon the men to consider the negative and far-reaching impacts of their actions because it is counterproductive to the work of uplifting our lahui (nation),” said Lewis. “We call out to our Hawaiian community, that we must hold ourselves to a higher standard of peace and nonviolence. We should be the first to call out acts that cross lines that should not be crossed, even when our ideas and strategies differ, and especially when they include physical violence.”
On Thursday, Jan. 17, police arrested five men at the OHA headquarters on Nimitz Highway. The members of the group known as Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi had forced entry into the headquarters at about 11 a.m. before assaulting at least two staff members, harassing and verbally threatening others.
In the process, the group said, multiple staff were physically assaulted, and one person’s ribs were fractured.
Lewis, in his statement, also called upon law enforcement officials to hold the men accountable.
“These were acts of terroristic threatening and serious assault, yet those arrests, some with long, public criminal records that include domestic violence against family members, currently face only minor charges,” he said.
While high bail has been applied to Native Hawaiian seeking to protect the land, these men were released on $100 bail, Lewis noted. Within hours of posting bail, he said, they took to social media to celebrate.
“This inequity is questionable at best,” said Lewis. “We are left to wonder if the events of last week had occurred at any other government agency, would the response by authorities have been the same.”
The statement that Lewis read was supported by more than 50 Native Hawaiian groups and individuals, including the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, former Gov. John Waihe‘e, Kamehameha Schools, and numerous state legislators.
The group made clear that they were not speaking on behalf of OHA, although the agency’s trustees and CEO Kamana‘opono Crabbe were present.
OHA also issued a statement on Thursday in response, saying that it continues to work with various law enforcement entities to increase safety measures, and to protect its staff, beneficiaries, visitors and building tenants. OHA also thanked the Honolulu Police Department for their support and assistance over the last week.
“While Native Hawaiians today hold differing opinions on many issues, we must all agree that there is no place for violence in our community,” said OHA in the statement. “Any use of violence – regardless for what cause – must be condemned.”