Protesters made up of local Hawaiians are set to protest along Mark Zuckerberg’s six-foot-high wall on Saturday despite his apparent withdrawal of the lawsuit that would compel them to give up their inherited “kuleana” land in return for monetary compensation.
Zuckerberg, through three holding companies controlled by him, had filed eight lawsuits in December 2016 against families who still possess legal ownership of land through the Kuleana Act of 1850. This law gave natives the right to own the land that they lived on and also allowed many to inherit in the event of their forebears’ death. Zuckerberg’s suit was against these families who collectively inherited 14 parcels of land under the Kuleana Act.
While the 14 parcels only total 8.04 acres of the sprawling 700-acre facility that Zuckerberg spent $100 million to acquire, the law still allows a direct descendant of the original owner of the parcels to access the private property. As a result of this, the quiet-title suits are designed to identify property owners and enable them to sell their ownership stakes at auction.
However, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan withdrew the lawsuits through a letter published on Friday in The Garden Island, a Kauai newspaper.
“To find a better path forward, we are dropping our quiet title actions and will work together with the community on a new approach. We understand that for native Hawaiians, kuleana are sacred and the quiet title process can be difficult. We want to make this right, talk with the community, and find a better approach.”
In a Facebook post earlier on Thursday, Zuckerberg revealed that the intention behind his quiet-title lawsuit was to identify landowners who might not know they own any such thing and pay them their entitlements.
However, despite his decision to drop the quiet-title lawsuit, natives still plan to protest later today. Joe Hart, who organized the protest, told Business Insider on Friday that “the march is on” because “the Kupuna Elders won’t accept him dropping the suit while his partners continue on his behalf.”
This is an apparent reference to the operational tactics of Zuckerberg’s private security team used on them. For instance, Naoshi Grady was “harassed and intimated” while using a coastal rail facility that runs through Zuckerberg’s massive estate. Even Hart, a local hibiscus farmer, was “recently confronted by security guards while walking along the beach adjacent to Zuckerberg’s property.”
In a related manner, many native Hawaiians have also complained of either encountering no-trespass signs on the historic Ala Loa Trail or forced to leave by security guards.
Beyond the rough tactics of Zuckerberg’s security men is the real underlying issue of access. Locals have been having a hard time gaining access to their inherited parcels of land. Nothing symbolizes this issue more than the construction of the six-foot-high wall Zuckerberg built last year. This wall had cut off access to “kuleana” land which the original owner had been able to access.
“People are furious down here with him,” said Hart.
Over 200 are expected to participate in the protest.
Hawaii State Representative Kaniela Ing commented in a recent Facebook post.
“We cannot allow billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg to use piles of money to tilt Hawaii’s justice system against local residents. Let’s remind Zuckerberg that, in Hawaii, we approach each other with aloha and talk story first. We don’t initiate conversation by suing our neighbors.”
In all of this, Zuckerberg’s position is that “the right path is to sit down and discuss how to best move forward. We will continue to speak with community leaders that represent different groups, including native Hawaiians and environmentalists, to find the best path.”
[Featured Image By Getty Images/Justin Sullivan]