WAILUKU - A Native Hawaiian group has filed suit in 2nd Circuit Court seeking a restraining order to stop planned Halloween celebrations in Lahaina.
The organization Na Makua O'Maui and Kula resident Richard Dancil filed the suit Friday afternoon, claiming that Mayor Alan Arakawa improperly circumvented the county Cultural Resources Commission to move the event forward, and that staging the large, raucous Halloween party in a culturally sacred, historic site constitutes a violation of Native Hawaiians' civil rights.
They ask a judge to grant a temporary restraining order initially and later to issue a permanent restraining order blocking the event; order a change of venue to a "more appropriate" location; and award unspecified general and punitive damages.
"For many Hawaiian people, our spirit and identity is dying because of this kind of abuse, insensitivity and indifference," Dancil said in an e-mail. "This kind of event is killing us spiritually, culturally and psychologically. There is no valid justification for it."
Arakawa, the county Office of Economic Development, the Planning Department and the LahainaTown Action Committee are named as defendants in the suit.
County Communications Director Rod Antone said Saturday that corporation counsel had received the complaint.
"It is under review," he said.
Representatives of LahainaTown Action Committee could not immediately be reached for comment.
In their court filing, the plaintiffs noted that the annual Lahaina Halloween party had been marketed as the "Mardi Gras of the Pacific," and that past events were "noted for offensive, (lewd) and lascivious behavior, drinking, nudity, profanity and the mocking of Hawaiians and their culture through inappropriate costumes and dress promoted both at the event and online."
It notes that Lahaina is a National Historic District, named by the Historic Hawaii Foundation in January as one of the most endangered historical places in Hawaii, and contains a number of culturally significant and sensitive sites.
"In fact, a sacred Hawaiian site known as the Moku'ula was used frequently for urination by Halloween participants," notes the complaint.
The Arakawa administration initiated an application to the Cultural Resources Commission earlier this year but later withdrew the application when it became apparent that permission would not be granted for the event, the suit claims. The CRC has denied permits for the event for the past four years.
In previous years, approval from the Cultural Resources Commission had been required for permits to build a stage in the historic district and allow vendors in Banyan Tree Park.
But county officials announced earlier this month that they had made the stage smaller and would exclude vendors from the park, allowing the event to move forward without the CRC's review.
The lawsuit claims county authorities deliberately circumvented the CRC's authority and deprived Native Hawaiians of their right to due process and a chance to review and comment. The plaintiffs also argue that the county should be required to file an environmental impact statement for the event.
The suit also states that allowing Halloween to go forward would violate the civil rights of Hawaiians and is "a form of ethnic cleansing" of Native Hawaiians and their culture.
"Plaintiffs believe that, lacking intervention, this eradication of the Hawaiian people and their culture and heritage will continue unabated in this manner," the suit claims, "and that this Halloween event is a Pandora's box inviting invasive elements to destroy what little is left, before Plaintiffs, including the Hawaiian people, have an opportunity to educate and restore what is left of the old ways that can revitalize the people, the culture and the land."
The lawsuit is pending before 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo.
Honolulu attorney Keoni K. Agard is representing Na Makua O'Maui and Dancil.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.