HONOLULU (AP) — Most of the 21 people part of a group who call themselves a misunderstood, nature-loving family remained jailed Tuesday over allegedly violating Hawaii’s traveler quarantine, even after they agreed to return to Los Angeles.
Eligio Bishop, leader of the group known as Carbon Nation, was released with two others Monday after he pleaded no contest to violating Hawaii’s quarantine, which is meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the islands.
After their release, they caught a flight to Los Angeles, but Bishop told The Associated Press Tuesday he’s waiting for his remaining “family” to join him.
“I’m outside, but my people are not. My family is not. My family is still stuck in those cells,” he said.
The 18 others will be released soon, after all their paperwork and discussions with their attorneys are finalized, Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth said.
“We are working on everyone else,” he said. “They should be out by the end of the week.”
Bishop and his group arrived in Hawaii over June 7 and 8. On the 8th, Bishop and others were seen at a beach, where Bishop petted a sea turtle, police said.
“I definitely didn’t know that wasn’t allowed. Never seen a turtle before that big,” he said. “I’ve never seen a turtle just free in the ocean.”
All travelers — tourists and residents — arriving in Hawaii must obey a mandatory 14-day quarantine, which doesn’t allow people to leave a hotel room or residence for anything other than medical emergencies.
As of Tuesday, 740 people have tested positive for coronavirus and 17 people have died, according to Hawaii’s Department of Health.
Bishop said they weren’t aware Hawaii officials were serious about the quarantine, even though he and others signed documents at the airport acknowledging the quarantine order.
“So, honest mistake because we were all under the impression that it was just like everywhere else in the states where it’s not that serious.” he said. “People were still out, going around.”
Bishop says he is often described as a cult leader, but he said the distinction surprises him.
“The first time I heard that, I thought it was kind of cool,” he said. “Me? A black man, a cult leader? I’m from the hood.”
They have been misunderstood everywhere they have lived, including Costa Rica, he said.
“We’re a group of African Americans that are protesting our conditions by leaving them,” he said. “They just make us look crazy on the internet.”
Carbon Nation members follow a vegan diet and believe — among other things — that all people are different shades of brown, member Kendra Carter said Monday.
Police decided not to arrest Carter and another woman so they could remain with their children without involving child protective services.
The group traveled to Hawaii seeking nature, Carter said. They planned to make Hawaii their home, until they started getting death threats, she said.
“My daughter and my wife is in there,” Bishop said, referring to an Airbnb rental property where some group members were staying and where people were making threats. “And I was like, I was so afraid for their lives because you just don’t know what people are going to do.” So they left Hawaii before Bishop’s release.
Jessica Lani Rich, president of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, which helps tourists, said she’s hoping to get the remaining 18 on the same flight out. A grant is funding a flight assistance program for people who break quarantine, she said.
Her organization was busy handling logistical details including luggage and making sure they get their IDs from authorities.
“It’s aloha oe to the Carbon Nation,” she said, using a common Hawaiian farewell.