When Mark Zuckerberg decided to sue hundreds of Hawaiians with ownership rights to small parts of his Kauai estate, he ignited a firestorm of backlash.
Now the Facebook billionaire’s neighbours plan to march in protest this weekend at the six-foot wall he erected last year along Koolau Road, according to the march’s organiser, Joe Hart.
In an interview with Business Insider on Thursday, Hart said he expected at least 200 locals, including several who Zuckerberg has filed lawsuits against, to participate in the march this Saturday.
“People are furious down here with him,” said Hart, a local hibiscus farmer who lives about a quarter mile from one edge of Zuckerberg’s roughly 700-acre property. Hart is encouraging people who attend the march to blow conch shells and bang drums in peaceful protest.
Zuckerberg filed eight lawsuits in local court on December 30 against families who collectively inherited 14 parcels of land through the Kuleana Act, a Hawaiian law established in 1850 that for the first time gave natives the right to own the land that they lived on.
The 14 parcels collectively total just 8 of the roughly 700 acres Zuckerberg owns, but the ancient law would give any direct family member of a parcel’s original owner the right to enter the billionaire’s otherwise private compound.
Encounters with security guards
Neighbours of Zuckerberg like Joe Hart said that the Facebook CEO’s security team has used intimidation tactics to keep them off the public beaches and trails that intertwine with his mostly undeveloped property.
Hart recalled being recently confronted by security guards while walking along a public beach adjacent to Zuckerberg’s property.
“We were walking along and they tried to say that this was private,” he said. “I’ve been walking on this since I was a little kid.”
In a recent interview with the Honolulu Star Advertiser, a man named Naoshi Grady said he filed a police report last year after being run off a public trail that runs through part of Zuckerberg’s estate.
“They told me I was on private property,” he told the local newspaper. “They were threatening to take my picture and have me arrested. They were aggressive, rude, and disrespectful.”
Richard Spacer, a self-described activist for public access who also lives in Kauai, told Business Insider that he’s heard of numerous natives who have either encountered no trespassing signs along the historic ala loa trail or have been forced to leave by security guards riding on ATVs.
A 6-foot wall that blocks “Kuleana”
Both Spacer and Hart said that the six-foot wall Zuckerberg built last year cut off access to an inherited parcel of land, or “kuleana,” that had been previously accessible to the original owner’s family members.
Representatives for Zuckerberg didn’t respond to Business Insider’s multiple requests for comment for this story. Zuckerberg issued a statement on Tuesday that said he was “reconsidering” the lawsuits, which would compel owners of the parcels to sell to the highest bidder.
“Based on feedback from the local community, we are reconsidering the quiet title process and discussing how to move forward,” Zuckerberg said in the statement. “We want to make sure we are following a process that protects the interests of property owners, respects the traditions of native Hawaiians, and preserves the environment.”
Hart said that he plans to keep marching at the wall every Saturday until Zuckerberg officially drops the lawsuits and meets with his neighbours in person.
“We just want to bring this light to issue,” Hart said. “He’s made his money stealing everyone’s information, which we’ve let him do, but to come down here and start suing everyone, that’s not going to fly down here.”