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Officers Level Taro Garden at Bayfront, Arrest Activists

Posted April 5, 2013, 07:16 PM HST
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This is how the former taro garden looked today after being cleared early this morning by state officers. Photo by Dave Smith.

Officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources assisted by police early today arrested 11 activists and removed a garden of taro they had planted in a state park at Hilo’s Bayfront.

Hawaiian sovereignty activists first began planting the “kanaka garden” several months ago in Wailoa River State Recreational Area. In recent weeks they had expanded the garden, digging up more of the lawn near the King Kamehameha statue and also planting a row of ti plants along the access road to the statue.

The taro garden as it appeared on Wednesday, complete with the DLNR notices. Photo by Dave Smith.

The taro garden as it appeared on Wednesday, complete with the DLNR notices. Photo by Dave Smith.

On Wednesday, the DLNR posted notices next to the garden informing the “Aloha Uprising!” activists that they were violating state law. The notices said that any materials left in the area were subject to seizure by the state and that any further violations would leave them subject to citation or arrest.

According to the activists, at about 4:30 a.m. this morning a group of police and officers from the DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement arrested six men and five women at a canopy erected about 100 feet from the garden.

The notice posted Wednesday afternoon by the DLNR . Photo by Dave Smith.

The notice posted Wednesday afternoon by the DLNR . Photo by Dave Smith.

Following the arrests the area was cleared and the taro plants and other items removed, including the canopy and two portable bathrooms the activists had placed nearby. The disturbed soil was also smoothed over, apparently by some form of wheeled equipment.

Details from police and the DLNR about the arrests and clearing action were not immediately available.

Activist Gene Tamashiro, who was at home last night and was not arrested, told Big Island Now that the arrests were for illegal camping. He said all of those arrested have been released.

Sovereignty activist Abel Lui waving at passing motorists on Kamehameha Avenue this afternoon. Photo by Dave Smith.

Sovereignty activist Abel Lui waving at passing motorists on Kamehameha Avenue this afternoon. Photo by Dave Smith.

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One of those arrested was Abel Lui, a longtime native Hawaiian activist. Lui, who was back in the park area today, said following his arrest police took him to Hilo Medical Center for several hours after he experienced some numbness in his arm.

Lui, 69, said when he returned to the police station he posted $250 bail and was released. Some of those arrested posted bail and others were released on their own recognizance, he said.

Tamashiro said the group plans to hold a standing, silent protest Saturday morning near the statue.

That is also the area where floats and other elements will be assembling for the Merrie Monarch Parade which begins at 10:30 a.m.

“We have been told if we put up a sign or even put up a table we are going to be arrested,” said.

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