Labor Day 'riot' at sandbar stirs talk of ban at meeting
A Labor Day party and concert on a Kaneohe Bay sandbar that ended in a "riot" has area residents and public officials talking about whether to restrict activity there.
"They get drunk, don't respect anybody and have all their mess -- bottles and cans, besides their urine," Elizabeth Lau, president of the Kualoa-He'eia Hawaiian Civic Club, said yesterday at a meeting at the state Capitol.
The sandbar, known also as Ahu o Laka, has been a gathering place for weekend, boat-based parties for decades, but the Labor Day event drew attention for its size and several injuries.
State Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers who broke up the party estimated the crowd that evening at more than 400 people and 60 or 70 boats. One young woman nearly drowned and when her brother tried to help her, he was cut on the head by someone wielding a beer bottle, said officers Michael Lapilio and Wes Mundy.
Mundy said the officers spent an hour and a half breaking up small fights and dispersing people after getting to the sandbar on a private citizen's boat at 5:30 p.m.
"It was a riot," said Lapilio. "There were 40 to 45 people milling, pushing, shoving, throwing bottles, yelling." He credited some off-duty police officers and other community leaders in the crowd with helping the outnumbered state officers restore order. Later, the injured people refused to testify against attackers, the officers said.
Kahaluu resident and Ko'olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club member Rocky Kaluhiwa said that the recent Labor Day party isn't the first time that concerts at the sandbar have had incidents.
She recalled that a few years ago a young man jumped off a pontoon into the shallow water over the sandbar and broke his neck, becoming paraplegic.
The two Hawaiian civic clubs asked the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to consider a temporary ban on activity at Ahu o Laka.
No ban was issued after two hours of discussion yesterday, but Roy Yanagihara, acting administrator of the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation for Oahu, said officials would look into the issues raised.
"At least people brought up ideas," Lau said after the meeting yesterday. "Maybe people didn't realize what was going on out there."
To Hawaiians, she said, drinking and loud music is "disrespect of a sacred shrine."
Emil Wolfgramm said the site is named after the great chief Laka, who died on what was then an island.
While those at the meeting in town talked about pollution and safety, some at Heeia Kea Pier yesterday expressed doubt that anything needs to change.
"I don't see it as a problem," said Phillip Quiton, 18. "One or two throw trash, but the rest of us pick it up."
"If you get too many people together, they fight," said Boogie Apana. "These young guys, they cannot drink in the sun."