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Hawaii News

Hawaii officials issue warning over illegal gatherings

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VIDEO COURTESY DLNR
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is discouraging large gatherings ahead of the Labor Day weekend. DLNR officials and Honolulu police broke up an illegal social gathering on a recent Saturday which saw hundreds gathered at Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline in East Oahu.
COURTESY DLNR
                                The state’s DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and the Honolulu Police Department broke up a gathering Saturday at the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline in East Oahu that attracted hundreds of attendees.
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COURTESY DLNR

The state’s DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and the Honolulu Police Department broke up a gathering Saturday at the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline in East Oahu that attracted hundreds of attendees.

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                The recent surge in new coronavirus cases in the state has officials concerned about crowds and gatherings over the Labor Day weekend. An alley next to Outrigger Waikiki was crowded with people both masked and unmasked on Wednesday afternoon.
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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

The recent surge in new coronavirus cases in the state has officials concerned about crowds and gatherings over the Labor Day weekend. An alley next to Outrigger Waikiki was crowded with people both masked and unmasked on Wednesday afternoon.

COURTESY DLNR
                                The state’s DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and the Honolulu Police Department broke up a gathering Saturday at the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline in East Oahu that attracted hundreds of attendees.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                The recent surge in new coronavirus cases in the state has officials concerned about crowds and gatherings over the Labor Day weekend. An alley next to Outrigger Waikiki was crowded with people both masked and unmasked on Wednesday afternoon.

Law enforcement will be out in full force and on the lookout for illegal, superspreader events this Labor Day weekend, but there have been little repercussions from a gathering of hundreds of college-aged party-goers at Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline in East Oahu last Saturday.

Still, state officials Wednesday said they have a stern message for anyone planning to defy gathering restrictions on public lands.

“To those individuals organizing or publicizing these gatherings — stop it,” said Jason Redulla, chief of the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, during a virtual press conference. “It’s unbelievable that anyone at this time in the pandemic believes it’s a good idea to promote or attend a gathering like this.”

Only four out of an estimated 300 to 400 attendees at the Kaiwi gathering were cited for violations of state park rules due to the unpermitted use of generators and audible devices in the park.

Those four cases are pending, and will be dealt with through the criminal justice system, he said.

Hundreds of others at Kaiwi could also have been cited for violating Honolulu County’s current rule restricting outdoor gatherings to 25 or fewer people — which he said would be considered petty misdemeanors, with potentially hundreds of dollars in fines and jail time.

But the officers’ primary mission Saturday was to disperse the crowd due to COVID-19 concerns, he said, and citing all the participants would have extended the length of time these mostly maskless individuals were in close proximity.

“We are continuing to investigate the genesis of this gathering and continue to receive tips on who may have promoted it,” he said. “We encourage anyone who was involved or has any information to do the right thing. Step forward and accept your punishment, and then to move on with the safety and welfare of all of Hawaii top of mind.”

For the upcoming weekend, Redulla said it will be an “all hands on deck” situation across the state, and that officers are ready to enforce regulations, and seize any items — including tents, generators and sound equipment — used to facilitate large gatherings.

State and University of Hawaii officials urged everyone to act responsibly this coming weekend.

UH President David Lassner called last weekend’s incident “disturbing,” and said the university is cooperating fully with state officials on the investigation, and that UH’s Office of Student Conduct is also investigating.

“We take these allegations about the actions of some of our students and our student organizations seriously,” he said.

The office is working to identify these individual students and student organizations as well as “un-affiliated” organizations that were involved. Thus far, he said, it appears the incident involves students from “multiple institutions of higher education, public and private”

Students who attended the beach party at Kaiwi have also been urged to get tested, monitor their symptoms, isolate, and opt for distance learning for 10 days.

Kapu Breakers, a voluntary group of citizens monitoring violations, believes the state needs to take stronger action.

“When you create these mandates which become law, especially during the pandemic we’re in right now, those laws should be followed,” said Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, a kumu hula and one of the founders of Kapu Breakers, who said more citations should have been issued to show there are consequences.

Hewett questioned what use a gathering restriction is if it comes with no repercussions. He was livid to learn about the actions of what he considers self-centered, young individuals that did not consider the impacts of their behavior on the greater community.

“What part of we’re in this together don’t you get?” he said. “You need to get off the I,I,I, and me, me, me — I want, me want — and look at your bigger community. You’re forgetting the responsibility for everybody else in the community and what is that? Clear selfishness and irresponsibility.”

Hewett said patience and common sense need to prevail, and that the actions of these young partygoers could potentially affect their families, whether it be siblings, nieces and nephews, or parents and grandparents.

“Everybody is interacting in the community, and if one of them has delta, they’re spreading it, and eventually it will reach all the people within their connections,” he said.

Kapu Breakers will also be out in full force over the holiday weekend, with members throughout the state watching for violations from a distance.

Curt Cottrell, Division of State Parks administrator, said large parties organized via social media on state lands are downright irresponsible.

Not only do they create major parking issues, but a human waste issue, particularly when alcohol is consumed, and litter is left behind for others to pick up. They also affect other park users.

These incidents have also occurred at other state parks, which should not serve as a “venue for inviting crowds and partying,” he said.

“The age range is diverse and it reflects a common lack of respect to the land and other beach users,” he said, calling it a sense of entitlement. “In some instances, it’s forced us to take extraordinary step of closing beach parks entirely or early on certain days to stop these large gatherings at expense of other general park users.”

He implored the public to ignore social media promotions of gatherings and “do the right thing.” It is not pono or mindful, he said, and places the rest of the community at risk.

Redulla reminded the public that alcohol will not be allowed at Ahu O Laka, or the Kaneohe sandbar, this weekend.

Also, due to limited resources, DOCARE welcomes anonymous tips from the public on gathering violations. They can be reported to 643-DLNR or via the free DLNRTipapp.

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