Jul. 3—Last week, while standing out on her condo lanai contemplating her familiar view of Diamond Head, Margy Benson received a shock.
There appeared to be graffiti scrawled on the side of the crater.
"I saw some illegal hikers, got out my binoculars to check and see if they were OK, " Benson said, "and I saw this bare patch high up on the slopes that looked like it had lettering, and I'm going, 'Are my eyes seeing that right ?'"
The letters appeared to spell "Trump, " she said.
"It was more just about I was shocked to see it on Diamond Head, the defacing of the mountain, which is a state monument and a national landmark, " said Benson, who lives in the Diamond Head Hillside condominiums at the corner of Campbell and Monsarrat avenues.
After studying the letters for a while, Benson guessed they weren't painted directly on a cleared area of the crater as she originally thought, but on a banner that was somehow attached to the site.
Honolulu native Alison Kwok, a frequent visitor to the area, said the lettering was pointed out to her by a passerby in mid-June.
"A woman walking a dog ran up to me and said, 'I don't care what your politics are, nobody should deface a sacred monument, '" Kwok said. "Vandalism shouldn't be allowed."
Waikiki resident Jan Nilsson, a friend of Benson's, said she could see the shape of the clearing or banner with her naked eye from her apartment building on Kuhio Avenue near Jefferson Elementary School, and could read the letters with binoculars.
Richard Rountree, Benson's neighbor in the penthouse, said he had seen many man-made additions, from roads and fencing to electric poles, on the crater slopes in the nearly 25 years he had lived in the building, but "there shouldn't be anybody's name up there—it's a beautiful volcano and I would prefer it to be virgin of politics."
Queried by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Thursday, Dan Dennison, spokesman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, replied via email it was the first he'd heard about the Leahi letters.
After viewing a photo provided by a resident, he said the lettering was on Board of Water Supply land "and is an area that is very steep and hard to access."
Nonetheless, on Friday morning, officers from DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement and Division of State Parks went to the crater.
DOCARE Officer Edward Thompson first scoped out the banner from just off Monsarrat Avenue, then hiked along the rim of the crater before dropping over the edge to search for it, according to a press release sent by DLNR Friday, The banner was found about 50-feet below the crater rim, attached to rocks and trees by screws and hooks.
Its message was "Trump 2021."
"Whomever put this 'Trump 2021' banner up went to a lot of trouble and they could have gotten into trouble, " Thompson said in the statement, which also noted that hiking on the rim of Diamond Head State Monument, or anywhere off designated trails, is prohibited.
"Had we caught them they could have been cited for entering a closed area as well as possibly for defacing public property, " Thompson added.
"No matter your political leanings, putting banners and signs up on public property is not acceptable or lawful, " said State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell in the statement.
In addition, "given the natural and cultural importance of Le 'ahi, it is definitely not the place for making political statements or putting up signs, " Cottrell said.