By Tino Ramirez
Advertiser North Shore Bureau
MOKULEIA City parks workers supported by police yesterday cleared a large garden from Mokuleia Beach Park that had been planted by John Keawemauhili and Marie Beltran, who have claimed for years that, as Hawaiians, they have a right to live in the public park.
Beltran, her attorney Ninia Parks and four others were arrested as they stood on the blade of a bulldozer before it moved into the garden. The arrest was the latest in a series for Beltran, who has been camping in Mokuleia with Keawemauhili, their children and grandchilden for eight years.
She and Keawemauhili have been evicted and charged several times for illegal camping, as well as other offenses arising from their belief that the city, state and federal government have no jurisdiction over them. Before her arrest, Parks said the land belonged to Keawemauhilis ancestors and he has a claim to it, while the city does not because the United States did not legally annex Hawaii.
Wilfred Ho, manager of city parks on the North Shore and in Windward Oahu, said the garden was planted without authorization and the area has been "privatized." The park will be closed to camping all this month for maintenance and improvement, he said. Families camping long term in the park were notified last month of the closure, and all but Keawemauhilis have since left.
Police have periodically removed the homeless from Mokul«ia Beach Park in response to complaints that others were not able to use the public beach.
Mike Dailey, president of the Mokul«ia Community Association and member of the North Shore Neighborhood Board, said the city as well as the state should continue to assert their authority over the North Shores public parks. Keawemauhili and Beltran were last evicted from the park in 1998 and both groups have been asking the city to remove them.
"Its not them as a specific group," said Dailey yesterday. "(The city and state) have to take charge because we have a lot of parks on the North Shore and if this park becomes a precedent, were going to have a lot of people moving out to the North Shore.
"If people live in a park, a normal reaction is not to disturb them and go elsewhere. At least this park will be available to the community again."
Above the rumbling of the bulldozer, supporter Toni Auld Yardley noted that yesterday was the anniversary of the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
"Its an assault and the second time this has happened to John and Marie on Jan. 17," said Yardley, editor of The Hawaiian News and founder of the Kanakamaoli Religious Institute. "Its nothing more than having the unlawful, de facto government flexing its muscles to show it has some authority."
While more than 20 mature papaya trees, as well as many native plants, were removed yesterday as the garden was bulldozed, an ahu (altar) and lele (platform) built and blessed by Hawaiian priests from the Big Island were not. Two of the priests, kahu TeRangi Ruwhiu and kahu Kaliko Kanaele, were also arrested.
"That was a major concern, that religious rights would be violated today," said Yardley. "That ahu has been here over a year and it has been a source of great strength for the family. But it makes no common sense to destroy the garden. Working the aina (land) strengthened the family."
Seeing the garden destroyed was "like taking a bullet in the head," said Keawemauhili.
Asked if he had plans to go elsewhere, Keawemauhili said: "I dont know. The oceans rough today, so we cannot go in the ocean. Maybe thats the next place to go for us, the ocean. But until they see and believe and allow, were going to resist."
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