The dogs and I headed over to the beach just after dawn because I'm addicted to the restorative powers of that early morning shimmer and the feeling of cool water enveloping warm flesh, which clears out cobwebs and sinuses better than coffee and Kleenex. It's such a joy when you can just go to the beach and have fun, without having to worry about an altercation or infringement.
So I wasn't especially sympathetic to the response I got from Michelle Swartman, who represents Ohana Hanalei LLC. That's the company that now owns the old Hanalei Plantation resort land where, as I reported last Friday, Lance Laney was hassled first by a security guard, and then the cops, for using a public access to the beach.
She smarmily blamed the altercation on the guard, saying: “Unfortunately we have not closed the loop with our security. Our concerns for safety of those who walk on the property (especially outside the permitted pedestrian access area) are valid, however we do acknowledge that a pedestrian access exists and an unlocked gate for pedestrians only, is passable. We have informed our security to advise that pedestrian access at their own risk is allowed, strictly to the beach and back.”
She also wrote, “We will deal with this on an individual basis without commenting publicly. We appreciate your cooperation.”
Umm, sorry, Michelle, but I'm not gonna play along with the hush-hush. As I responded to her:
I will be writing a follow up on my blog because there is a great deal of interest with this, and since it is a public access, people have the right to know.
I find it troubling — if not implausible — that you have "not closed the loop" with your security. It seems that training them on the public's use of a valid access would be first and foremost. It's a very serious thing when your guard calls the police on someone who is using a legal access, and that person is threatened with arrest. Lance Laney spent considerable time tracking down information and went through the aggravation of having to deal with police and having his fishing excursion ruined.
Furthermore, as Lance reported, this was not the first incident of this type. How many others have been hassled by the police or made to leave when they have a right to be there? I hope you are following up on those police reports to rectify any harm you may have caused the members of this community.
Because the fact is, once the cops are called in, anything can happen. If you stand up for your rights, the cops might interpret it as resisting arrest, so bang, there's a charge against you. Heck, you could even be Tased or shot. Or maybe the cops run a check and find there's a contempt warrant out for your arrest because you missed one of the endlessly continued appearances associated with some manini “crime,” like driving with a Kingdom of Atooi license. Or maybe you have a little bit of cannabis in your pocket or a throw net that's not registered with the DLNR.
What began as a recreational trip to the beach — or maybe a subsistence excursion to get some fish for your table — suddenly turns into a chance for the cops to scrutinize and detain you, possibly ending in a ride in the back seat of the blue-and-white down to the holding cell in Lihue. Next thing you know, you're caught in the undertow of the criminal justice system. And believe me, this is not a far-fetched scenario.
So you just don't go, because even if you're “legal” — or think you are — who wants to risk a confrontation when you're just trying to go to the fricking beach? Pretty soon, folks stop using the access, and it's mission accomplished for the landowner, who doesn't really want you there.
Face it. If it hadn't been for the push-back from Lance, who said he was inspired by the activism of his wife, Mina Morita, you can bet that people would still be getting turned away from this legal access.
That's why I loved this comment, left on Friday's post:
It would be appropriate for Lance to now file a police report against the security guard. Impeding someone's lawful access through public property is a crime. With a police report and a nod from the prosecutor such a crime could be prosecuted - sending a very loud message. The OPA needs to begin protecting access and the environment. When was the last time anyone saw an environmental crime or a deprivation of access prosecuted? This could start with a police report. Let the security guard tell the police where his marching orders came from.
I would be very interested to know where the two candidates for prosecutor stand on this. Would either one of them be willing to criminally prosecute the owners/guard for denying lawful access? Until law enforcement gets involved - the fight to preserve access is hard, depending on a handful of lawyers and huli chicken sales. Its an election year. Time to pressure candidates on issue like this ! So Justin / Shaylene - is this a crime - sending a guard to kick someone out of an easement where he is allowed to be - by law? If the guard told the cops its private property - was that a false statement to a police officer?
Yeah, it sure would be nice to see the prosecutor file criminal charges — forget the civil stuff, rich people sue each other all the time, and lawsuits mean nothing to them — against the more affluent members of our society who, in fact, are no different than the smash-and-dash tweakers when it comes to engaging in behavior that degrades our way-of-life.
Speaking of which, the Navy wants to expand its war game training here in the Islands, and PMRF is one of the star locations. We're already the most militarized fake state in the nation, but that's not enough. They want more. I don't know anyone who has yet managed to plow through the user-unfriendly draft EIS, but they want to use the big noise-producing Osprey helicopters and they want to use more sonar, which even the Navy has recently admitted is more harmful to marine mammals than they previously admitted.
I know it's hard to gird up for the Navy's little dog-and-pony show — I mean, public open house — with its constricted format and product fair vibe, staffed by "it's all good" promoters. But if you can't quite stomach the meeting, set for 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Wilcox School, or make yourself believe that what you say will possibly have any impact, you might want to participate in the anti-war demonstration that will precede it, at 4:15 p.m.