Posted on: Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Superferry turned back by Kauai blockade
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NAWILIWILI, Kaua'i — The Superferry left Kaua'i last night without being able to break through a human blockade that occupied the Nawiliwili Harbor entrance until after 9 p.m. An unknown number of protesters was arrested, and arrests continued as surfers came to shore long after the ferry had left.
The protest on Kaua'i came hours after a Maui judge ordered the Superferry to halt service to the Valley Isle at least until tomorrow, when a court hearing is scheduled. The Superferry said it will abide by the order, which does not ban service to Kaua'i.
The Superferry returned to O'ahu without stopping on Kaua'i last night because "we couldn't get access to the harbor," said Lori Abe, a spokeswoman for the company.
The boat left Honolulu Pier 19 at about 3 p.m. yesterday and, after the failed attempt to land on Kaua'i, was scheduled to return to the same pier at midnight.
On Kaua'i, surfers, many of them young, were plucked from the water by the Coast Guard and turned over to police for arrest. Later, surfers came ashore after being told they were being offered amnesty — that's what the crowd believed, but when they set foot on land, armed officers ran them down and arrested them.
Yesterday's crowd — mostly protesters of the Superferry and some onlookers — exceeded 300 people. At one point, there were 56 surfers, swimmers and kayakers holding station at the harbor entrance, plus several outrigger canoe crews that transited the area during their afternoon practice.
Law enforcement was augmented, too. The Superferry arrived about 5:30 p.m. to find a tugboat at the harbor entrance, along with the Coast Guard cutter Galveston Island, three Coast Guard rigid-hulled inflatables, plus a state conservation enforcement boat. The Coast Guard contingent was reinforced from Honolulu by C-130 aircraft that reportedly brought more inflatable boats and crews.
Boat crews several times used loudspeakers to try to get the swimming and paddling protesters to leave the area, but few did until after dark. At that point, as a few paddled to shore, some were followed by Coast Guard boats, hauled aboard and delivered to waiting police officers to be carried away in a police wagon. Others were confronted and arrested as they climbed out of the water.
After 9 p.m., some of the onlookers began jumping into the water and removing their shirts, so officers would have more difficulty identifying who had been participating in the blockade.
When surfers and swimmers did get arrested, the crowd cheered and thanked them.
On board the Superferry, some passengers were taking it in stride. Others were frustrated.
Daniel Scott and his wife, Heidi, knew about Sunday's protest. Still, the Kane'ohe couple and their five children, whose ages range from 2 months to 9 years old, proceeded with travel plans yesterday.
The couple, as they boarded the ferry to Kaua'i yesterday, said that the Superferry's ongoing special $5 one-way tickets for passengers and $5 one-way tickets for vehicles presented an affordable chance to take the family to one of their favorite islands.
When asked whether they were prepared to deal with possible delays from protesters, Dylan Scott said, "It's part of the fun."
Heidi Scott added, "We brought a lot of games to play."
Nine-year-old Brittany Scott added, "We brought Cranium, It's a long, long, long, long, long game."
Others weren't so sanguine.
"This is absolutely miserable," said Dylan Mellor, of San Diego, as he waited aboard the Alakai outside Nawiliwili Harbor. "Everyone's trying to make the best of the situation, but you can feel some frustration. There's no food, no alcohol."
Mellor was on his first trip to Kaua'i with his girlfriend, Shalla Gonzales, who grew up on O'ahu's North Shore.
"Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but I don't want to be delayed too long because of it," Mellor said.
Superferry spokeswoman Abe said she couldn't say what the company's plan was for refunds for passengers on the boat last night. "We are going to do the right thing, but right now we are trying to figure out a game plan," Abe said.
On shore, a number of people said the issue for them is the sense that the state and the Superferry have violated the laws.
"I'm here because I love this island with all my heart. I'm tired of this disrespect," said Nancy Locey of Anahola.
"A lot of the kids out there (in the water) are junior high and high school kids, protecting their 'aina. I'm proud of them out there," said Greg Winston of Hanalei.
"The one thing that can bring everyone together — they do love the ocean," said Mickey Sussman of Anahola.
For heavy-equipment operator Kane Pa, the issue is bringing lots of people to Kaua'i and the impact on the island's resources.
"Let's talk about people coming here and raking the 'opihi, raking the mokihana, raking the maile. What about that?" Pa said.
State Rep. Mina Morita walked among the protesters yesterday, expressing concern for the tense situation, as armed police officers, SWAT teams, and officers with police dogs stood watching the crowd. Some of the officers were as frustrated as the protesters.
"I should be home with my family now. These people are keeping me away from my family," one officer said.
State Sen. Gary Hooser, D-7th (Kaua'i, Ni'ihau) expressed concern over the "imminent escalation."
"I am requesting that all parties, Superferry employees, protesters, police and Coast Guard personnel exercise restraint, keep all actions within the bounds of the law and avoid direct confrontation and unnecessary aggressive actions. In addition, it is imperative that a cooling-off period be put into place immediately while our community works through the important questions that have been raised in the last few days," Hooser said.
He said he asked Gov. Linda Lingle, state transportation director Barry Fukunaga and the state attorney general's office to arrange a halt to Superferry operations until courts can resolve legal issues in the case.
"The situation as it now stands is intolerable and fast approaching a point where serious injuries and further arrests are likely. Precipitous action benefits no one. Confrontations, injuries and arrests do not serve our community's well-deserved reputation for mutual respect and aloha," Hooser said in a release.
With the Superferry's departure shortly after 9 p.m., and several arrests over the next 45 minutes, the situation at Nawiliwili began to cool. By 10 p.m., most of the crowd had left or was leaving the dock area.
Three men arrested during Sunday's protest were released the same night, one on bail and two without bail, police said. According to Kaua'i Police Capt. Scott Yagihara, Justin Wood, 22, of Kapa'a, was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct; Bomun Bockchung, 28, of Kilauea, on suspicion of harassment, disobeying police officers and obstructing government operations; and Randy Wolfshagen, 49, of Kekaha, on suspicion of obstructing government operations and criminal trespass in the second degree.
It was not known last night what charges were being used against the surfers and swimmers arrested at last night's protest.