FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
C. Nakashima, seen in the mirror of her patrol vehicle, was one of several state Department of Land and Natural Resources DLNR officers on the grounds of Iolani Palace yesterday afternoon, posted at the Diamond Head gate.
With palace items safe, protection issue looms
State officials suggest security is a concern after a second group tries to occupy the site
» Chief details police actions at palace
STORY SUMMARY »
A brief takeover of Iolani Palace by a Hawaiian group Friday caused no major damage to the historic building, which will reopen tomorrow, a palace official said.
Damage was limited to door hardware at the palace and the barracks, according to a statement by the Friends of Iolani Palace.
The state and Honolulu Police Department, meanwhile, were looking into allegations that a police sergeant declined to aid a palace staffer under assault by a member of the pro-sovereignty group.
The alleged assailant, appearing in District Court yesterday, was ordered to stay away from the palace grounds.
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Except for damaging the doors, a Hawaiian group that broke into Iolani Palace last week apparently left its historical artifacts intact, allowing the building to reopen for tours tomorrow morning, officials said yesterday.
The state is proposing new administrative rules for Iolani Palace following demonstrations by two Hawaiian groups since April. Among other things, the rules would prohibit:
1. Obstructing public access to the grounds, buildings or structures.
2. Unauthorized occupation of any structure on the grounds, including but not limited to Iolani Palace, Coronation Pavilion, Kanaina Building, Iolani Barracks Building and Kekauluohi (Archives) Building.
3. Entering or remaining on the grounds during the hours they are closed.
4. Engaging in any activity so as to obstruct or impede pedestrian or vehicles, or harass or intimidate visitors, volunteers or employees traversing or on the premises either verbally or with physical contact or barriers.
5. Signs or flags of a size greater than 12 square feet.
Source: State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks
» Click here to read the state's proposed new rules for Iolani Palace.
But Friday's brief occupation of the former home of Hawaii's last monarch has state officials questioning the palace's security. State Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, noted the incident happened less than four months after another Hawaiian group blocked access to palace grounds for several hours on April 30.
"To see a similar situation happen again -- and in this case now it appears that they may have crossed the line in terms of property damage or breaking into a facility -- we definitely have to look at the security issues around Iolani Palace," said Espero (D, Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach). "This is a cultural icon. This is Hawaiian heritage."
Eight or nine employees of the nonprofit Friends of Iolani Palace, which holds a state lease agreement to manage the property, are in charge of around-the-clock protection of the building and its grounds, said spokeswoman Ruth Limtiaco. The workers are paid by the nonprofit, which gets funding from the state and grants, as well as income from tours, she said.
Limtiaco declined to comment on whether the palace is properly guarded, but in a statement yesterday the group lauded security measures for preventing people who invaded the building from getting into rooms with valuable items.
Kippen de Alba Chu, the nonprofit's executive director, said damage from the occupation was limited to door hardware at the palace and Iolani Barracks, a nearby building completed in 1871 to house the Royal Guard which now includes a shop, video theater and ticket and membership offices. No palace artifacts were stolen, according to a preliminary assessment.
Police Chief Boisse Correa says HPD committed dozens of officers once it understood the seriousness of the situation.
The palace grounds reopened at 6:30 a.m. yesterday, and officials said tours would resume tomorrow.
A state monument, the palace is decorated with portraits of 10 Hawaiian kings and queens and vases and statuary from England, India and France. Built in 1882, it has a shiny staircase of Hawaiian woods that leads to a second floor, where there are suites, a music room and a so-called imprisonment room where Hawaii's last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, was kept under arrest for five months after the overthrow of her government, according to the palace's Web site.
The group that took over the building, calling itself Kingdom of Hawaii, Nation, had planned to chain its leader, James Kimo Akahi, to one of the palace's thrones. But once inside, its members could not find the throne room.
"If this had happened, it would have caused irreparable damage to an object of Hawaiian cultural patrimony," de Alba Chu said in the statement.
It said chaining a person to either of the two thrones, which are displayed at the palace on loan from Bishop Museum, would have ripped their original upholstery fabric and gouged wood frames.
Espero asked Laura Thielen, director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, for information about the palace's occupation, specifically claims that a Honolulu Police Department sergeant failed to help an employee allegedly being assaulted. Gov. Linda Lingle has also instructed the attorney general's office to look into the case.
DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward declined to comment on the palace's security, saying only that officials would be addressing "what happened and what needs to happen."
The DLNR has proposed new rules for Iolani Palace after some 70 members of another group, the Hawaiian Kingdom Government, chained the entrances to the palace grounds for most of the day on April 30. Draft regulations would prohibit obstructing public access and unauthorized occupation of any structure in the area, as well as harassment of tourists, volunteers or employees.
"The locking of the Palace gates in April were a 'wake-up' call for the department to move forward with draft rules," Ward wrote yesterday in an e-mail. Public comment on the rules is still being accepted, she said.