Iolani Palace Protesters Get Their Day In Court

Nanea Kalani/Civil Beat

Native Hawaiians who believe they are citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom — not the United States — nonetheless spent Thursday in an American court defending themselves against charges they trespassed on the grounds of their rightful seat of government, Iolani Palace.

Weeks after invoking their Hawaiian sovereignty rights before a Honolulu judge, the 23 demonstrators arrested at Iolani Palace in November showed up to stand trial in Honolulu District Court.

Those arrested, members of the self-proclaimed Aupuni O Ko Hawaii Pae Aina/Hawaiian Kingdom Government, are charged with second-degree criminal trespassing for refusing to leave palace grounds after hours on Nov. 7. The defendants had argued at their arraignments that they were not U.S. citizens, but "living sovereigns" of the kingdom of Hawaii.

Although they believe they are under the jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the defendants appeared in court because they felt it's important to defend their actions and prove they did nothing wrong, says Mahealani Kahanaoi.

She prefers to be called Her Royal Majesty Mahealani and says she is the elected "head of state" for the group. She was one of those arrested.

Kahanaoi said the kingdom holds the title to Iolani Palace, and therefore the group had every right to remain on the property.

"Even if an offer is put on the table — to pay a fee or a fine — we wouldn't take it because then we would be admitting something we didn't do," Kahanaoi told Civil Beat.

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