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Hawaii beach parties draw response from police and state

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                                Community members pose Saturday after a news conference at Haleiwa Beach Park to discuss recent illegal gatherings at north- and west-shore beaches on Oahu.


    Community members pose Saturday after a news conference at Haleiwa Beach Park to discuss recent illegal gatherings at north- and west-shore beaches on Oahu.

Community leaders and members gathered Saturday at Haleiwa Beach Park to send a message to those who participated in large illegal beach parties on Oahu’s North Shore over Memorial Day weekend: You have been warned.

“We’re not going to tolerate it,” said Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi, who represents the North Shore district. “Just felt it was important to give everyone fair warning on that.”

She said she wanted the organizers and participants to know what they did was illegal, unsafe and irresponsible.

Tsuneyoshi was joined by about a dozen other community leaders with concerns about the gatherings at Waimea Bay Beach Park and at Kaena Point. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said about 200 attended a party at Kaena Point the night before Memorial Day and many were off-duty military members.

Officers with the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and Honolulu police officers spent about 4-1/2 hours directing the partiers to clean up their messes and to leave the area, according to the DLNR.

In addition, there were large gatherings at Kaena Point on Friday and Saturday of that same weekend, and DOCARE officers cleaned up trash and pallets left behind from giant bonfires, DLNR said.

DLNR said open fires on Hawaii beaches are illegal, and participants were in violation of state social distancing rules and not having permits for large gatherings at a state park.

The parties occurred on the first weekend that the city reopened beaches on Oahu as the number of coronavirus cases remain flat in Hawaii.

On Saturday, state Department of Health officials said there were three new cases, including two on Oahu and one on Maui. The state’s coronavirus death toll remains unchanged at 17.

This month, the state has seen only 45 new confirmed cases and has had seven days with no increase in confirmed infections.

As for the parties, the Honolulu Liquor Commission has said it was investigating after a local group, Protect Waimea, alleged that two local businesses illegally sold alcohol at the gatherings.

Tsuneyoshi said after the Memorial Day weekend parties, organizers began promoting a similar event for June 5 at Waimea Bay.

“I felt it was important that if you feel that emboldened to put it out on social media, then you should know that we’re going to have a response to that,” she said. “You should know that we’re already working to make sure we address your ideas of thinking that you’re going to do it another time.”

She said she was working with Honolulu police and city parks to be ready if another illegal gathering is held.

Lt. Col. Adam Hallmark, spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said the Army has opened an inquiry into the parties.

“We’re trying determine if we had personnel involved in this and if we did, who they are,” he said. He declined to say what kind of offenses were committed, but said the Army supports the North Shore community.

“We take seriously our role in being integral and good neighbors,” he said. “Today was a good way to demonstrate that we mean it.”

Waialua resident Christy Hill said she went to clean up Kaena Point with her family on the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend after hearing about the large parties. She said they uncovered shallow fire pits and pulled out 150 pounds of nails and broken glass from three fire pits on the beach. On the sand were left behind blankets, towels, condoms and styrofoam food trays.

“It was all messed up,” she said. “It’s kind of hurtful because our children use the beach.”

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