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Hilo Man Arrested for Entering Iolani Palace Grounds

January 18, 2021, 7:30 AM HST
* Updated January 18, 3:08 AM
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Iolani Palace. Photo: D Ramey Logan.

Gene Tamashiro, a Hilo man who was embroiled in a recent controversy involving a Big Island park, has been arrested in Honolulu.

Authorities arrested Tamashiro at Iolani Palace Sunday morning, according to a report from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. The 64-year-old is charged with entering a closed state park and violation of Hawai‘i’s COVID-19 rules.

Tamashiro led a group of protesters in what he called an “occupation” of Wailoa River State Park earlier this month. Part of the group’s activities were setting up camp there with a series of tents and planting a “kanaka” garden, which was subsequently removed by the state. Tamashiro conceded publicly then that many in his group chose not to wear masks while gathering at Wailoa, as they do not believe in the science behind the virus protocols.

Prior to his arrest Sunday, Tamashiro, and a group of about a dozen supporters gathered in the mall between the State Capitol and the palace, according to the DLNR release. Tamashiro had already informed the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) that he intended to enter the palace grounds if he wasn’t given permission to gather to mark the anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Iolani Palace has been closed on Sundays since nearly the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DOCARE had a heavy presence on the palace grounds, as officers monitored locked gates for anyone attempting to trespass. At 10:30 am, DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla spoke to Tamashiro and his group and explained that without a permit from the DLNR Division of State Parks they would not be allowed to enter the grounds. Tamashiro then reportedly produced a long scroll of documents, which he asserted show the illegal overthrow of the kingdom and question the legality of ownership of the palace by the state of Hawai‘i.

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Tamashiro and Redulla reportedly spoke cordially for around 10 minutes. The DLNR said Tamashiro then announced his intention to jump the palace’s ornate fence. Once on the palace grounds, he was handcuffed and led away. Tamashiro was transported by deputy sheriffs from the Department of Public Safety for booking. As of Sunday, he was being held on $2,500 bond.

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Ten days ago, Tamashiro was cited in Hilo by DOCARE for three Hawai‘i Administrative Rules (HAR) violations associated with the planting of the garden in the middle of Wailoa River State Park. He and his supporters had been given a cease and desist order two days before.

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