Little Beach is a public space and all sectors of society have equal rights to use it. As always late Sunday afternoon the mostly nude tranquility of Little Beach was transformed by the Drum Circle starting up and the arrival of the good-natured party people including sacred earth religious practitioners, many dressed to impress. It was New Year Sunday January 3 and, without anyone’s intention, the crowd size was a multiple of the norm. For a small proportion of the attendees, the party spirit prevailed over COVID-19 Emergency Rules which was irresponsible and deplorable. However, to put it in perspective, no more dangerous than then President Trump’s many White House parties and supporter rallies we all saw on TV, and certain churches that held indoor services.
Why was the DLNR DOCARE law enforcement not enforcing COVID-19 Emergency Rules? Maybe, like the party folk, they did not anticipate the size of the crowd. The real answer is that they were not too concerned about safety at any of the Sunday evening gatherings in prior months. Easier to monitor social media than monitor the beach. On Jan 3 they got lucky. The DLNR found damming visual evidence on social media and used it to grossly misrepresent the true nature of Little Beach - in its closure announcement. Not only did they misrepresent the true nature of the party people, they conveyed that Little Beach was normally a den of iniquity. Was there a hidden agenda. Absolutely, this would be ammunition for an attack on the 70-year practice of nudity at Little beach.
The DLNR has a duty to protect public safety, but did nothing. Long after the supposed danger had passed, they decided to close the beach “temporarily” on a weekday, when there was no crowding and only the regular COVID-rule-respecting beachgoers (mostly naturists) would be present. It made no sense, and some ventured onto Little Beach, doing no harm and presenting no public safety risk. The DLNR beach closure was illegal under HRS §115-9, and State Park rule HAR §13-146-4 since the claimed safety risk was false, yet citations were issued to those entering a closed area under that same rule. Folks wondered why Big Beach, one of the most dangerous beaches in the State, had been without lifeguards for many months. Death and frequent injury statistics are not reported, and pathetic DLNR signage does nothing to alert the innocent visitor of the extreme danger. The DLNR’s claim that they were concerned for public safety was believed by no one.
Temporary” became weeks. A gate was installed and kept locked for more weeks. Vandals cut it down and it was back up 2 days later. More weeks passed and the DLNR’s name became mud. The DLNR has an attitude of authority rather than service. It therefore seeks to control and penalize, and has little regard for the people it is supposed to serve.
In the closure notice (Governor Ige appointed) DLNR Chair, Suzanne Case stated that the closure was "for everyone’s health and safety," a falsehood since the only time of possible slight risk was for 3 hours on Sunday evenings. Suzanne Case also stated "Participants in the Sunday gatherings shoulder full responsibility for this closure. It’s too bad their astounding lack of personal responsibility, penalizes everyone else who abides by the rules." First, Suzanne Case confirms that everyone else abides by the rules. Second, she states that everyone who abides by the rules will be penalized. Third, she falsely implies that it is others, not the DLNR, that is penalizing everyone who abides by the rules. Was a DLNR hissy fit the only reason for depriving the innocent for 6-3/4 days each week for over 9 weeks. No, it was anti-nudity bigotry!
The beaches of Hawaii belong to the people and the people were deprived of that which is rightfully theirs - by the appointed caretaker. For the DLNR to take punitive action against the uninvolved, and the vast majority of Little Beach users who were not even present, is unjust and immoral. This was government overreach and abuse of power. Little Beach is a very specific international visitor destination and hundreds, maybe thousands, of vacations were ruined. It shows no aloha to lock out visitors who have traveled thousands of miles. If beachgoers on Kamaole Beach 1 disrespected COVID-19 Emergency Rules, no one would think of closing the beach for a day, let alone 9 weeks. No other beaches were closed for disregard of Covid Rules - because bigotry only reined over Little Beach. In contrast, not one citation was issued to those committing the January 3 public safety misdemeanor.
Prior to reopening Little Beach, the DLNR pivoted from public safety to a bigot’s agenda. They attempted to ferment cultural (racial) hostility between native Hawaiians and regular beach users, promoting the concept that the beach users are disrespectful to sacred Hawaiian culture. Nothing is further from the truth. The DLNR has falsely alleged that “the beachgoers (predominantly naturists) have moved rocks and dug into the sand and cinder deposits” in a site "culturally important to the Hawaiian people." But really, who hasn’t “dug into the sand” on a beach!
In a pre-opening letter to South Maui representative, Tina Wildberger, they spun a tale that new archeological information justified “enhanced management,” designating the Pu’u Ola’i cinder cones a “traditional cultural property.” They said this “adds an additional cultural management consideration and impetus to restore a greater respect and responsible recreational use in the shadow of Pu’u Ola’i.” To make their message more clear, they attached an image of their new No Nudity signage for the beach.
Fact check: It has been known for decades and documented in a 412-page 2007 study that Pu’u Ola’i (and most of Makena) is rich in the cultural history of precontact Hawaiians. Nothing new here to justify a change in DLNR policy. It should be noted that precontact Hawaiians were comfortable with nudity and bathed and surfed nude. Therefore, the new No Nudity signs are haole artifacts and an affront to precontact Hawaiian culture, especially “in the shadow of Pu’u Ola’i.”
Finally Little Beach was reopened. This is the DLNR’s Little Beach reopening announcement. We agree with the part “We hope people will respect this place, pay attention to all current local rules regarding COVID-19.” However the DLNR management had already abandoned any thought of enforcing Covid Emergency rules and were now laser focused on enforcing their No Nudity rule. For the remainder of 2021 there would be no Covid, alcohol, drugs, smoking, fire or camping citations - but 20 Nudity citations. The BIGOT stands in plain view. The DLNR characterized the weekly Sunday evening Drum Circle gathering as “rave like parties” but they can also be very mellow with a few people dancing.
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