Hawaiin Iolani Palace closed indefinitely after occupation

Honolulu, Hawaii (AP) 8-08

Iolani Palace will remain closed indefinitely while palace curators assess damages done to the historic structure during a takeover attempt by a Native Hawaiian sovereignty group.

Police arrested 23 people for the stunt, in which members of the group calling itself the Kingdom of Hawaii on Aug. 15 locked the palace gates, entered the palace and attempted to sit their leader on the throne.

No artifacts in the palace were damaged or stolen, according to palace officials. Three locks, including those securing the throne room, were damaged.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources will decide when the palace can reopen, Ruth Limtiaco, president of the Limtiaco Company, said Aug. 17. The Limtiaco Company is a public relations firm that represents the Friends of Iolani Palace.

The group also broke into a barracks building near the palace and raised a flag on the barracks’ flagpole. During the takeover attempt, eight palace employees locked themselves in the palace and a nearby administrative building.

The group’s leader, 67-year-old James Kimo Akahi of Haiku, Hawaii, claims he’s the rightful king of the islands. He said he planned to chain himself to the throne but couldn’t find it because he had never been inside the palace before Aug. 15, which also marked the 49th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood.

Other Hawaiian sovereignty supporters condemned Akahi’s actions.

“That’s atrocious, for him trying to sit on the throne at Iolani Palace,” said Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., a Hawaiian priest and longtime activist. “James Akahi is not the king of Hawaii.”

Several Native Hawaiian organizations have rival claims to sovereignty over the islands.

Another group calling itself the Hawaiian Kingdom Government occupied the palace grounds April 30 and has been getting permits to set up on the grounds each week since then. That group claims to be operating a functioning government from the palace grounds.

The palace lockdown shows a growing impatience by some Hawaiian groups toward correcting injustices done in the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893, said Jon Osorio, a professor at the Hawaiian Studies Center at the University of Hawaii.

“There hasn’t been a real reconciliation between the U.S. and the state and the Hawaiian people,” Osorio said. “There may be some frustration that older sovereignty groups and activists haven’t been able to get the U.S. to the bargaining table.”

Legislation pending in the U.S. Senate would set up a federally recognized Native Hawaiian governing entity similar to those of Native Americans that could negotiate with state and federal governments over control of natural resources, lands and assets.

The 23 people arrested face charges for criminal trespassing and burglary for allegedly forcing their way into the palace.

State law enforcement officers climbed over the fence a couple of hours after the takeover began, reclaimed the palace grounds and took the group’s members into custody.

The ornate palace is operated as a museum of Hawaiian royalty. King Kalakaua built it in 1882, and it also served as the residence for his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani, the islands’ last ruling monarch. Liliuokalani was later imprisoned in the palace after the monarchy fell.

The palace was restored in the 1970s as a National Historic Landmark. It now includes a gift shop and is open for school groups and offers tours.

Hawaiian activists have long used the site for protests against U.S. control of the islands.

On the Net:

Kingdom of Hawaii: http://freehawaii.org/