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Latest Developments On TMT Protests At Mauna Kea

Updated: July 18, 5:26 p.m.

A group of elders and protest leaders called on partners in the international collaboration that is building the Thirty Meter Telescope to stop the construction. In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Kealoha Pisciotta said: "We are in the midst of a human rights crisis, and a human crisis." Others spoke angrily about the arrest on Wednesday of 34 kupuna and one caregiver and the police in riot gear who faced off against the demonstrators.

Pisciotta said in January, a group met with a representative of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a major funder of the telescope, to urge it to stop the construction. She said the foundation has not yet responded to the group about the latest protest.

The group also read the names of scientists involved in the work on the TMT and asked that they also help end the project. 

Updated: July 18, 4:33 p.m.

Crowds of protesters around the intersection of Mauna Kea Access Road and Daniel K. Inouye Highway peaked at about 600 people Thursday, state officials said, as a protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope continued. So far, construction equipment has not moved up the mountain.

There have been no arrests of protesters as of late afternoon. The highway, also known as Saddle Road, is open, but drivers were again reminded to be careful near the intersection.

The state maintains it closed the highway on Wednesday for safety reasons after protesters and vehicles obstructed the roadway. 

Updated: July 18, 3:58 p.m.

The state says officials will release the names of those arrested for obstruction of government operations once law enforcement reports are filed. Thirty-four people -- kupuna or elders and one caregiver-- were taken into custody on Wednesday as they blocked Mauna Kea Access Road to protest the planned Thirty Meter Telescope. All were cited and then released.

State spokesman Dan Dennison said no unauthorized people or vehicles are allowed up Mauna Kea Access Road. Some on foot were allowed earlier this week, but that's no longer the case.

Updated: July 18, 11:16 a.m.

State officials updated the number of those arrested yesterday to 34 -- 33 kupuna and one caregiver. Dan Dennison, spokesman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, deflected several questions from media representatives about law enforcement operations, citing operational security. He said the closure of Daniel K. Inouye Highway Wednesday was for public safety rather than other reasons cited on social media.

Updated: July 18, 9:30 a.m.

This is day four of the demonstration against building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. It's been a quiet morning so far. Protesters held a training session on passively resisting arrest. 

Andre Perez, one of the protest leaders, taught techniques such as positions to take when lying down and ways to link arms. 

Updated: July 18, 7:22 a.m.

The Daniel K, Inouye Highway, widely known as Saddle Road, is open to traffic Thursday after a three and a half hour closure Wednesday. Officials shut down the road after attempts to block the highway and as large crowds gathered to protest construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. 

Hawaii County urged drivers to be careful while passing the Mauna Kea Access Road and highway intersection. Crews have set up barriers to help with traffic flow.

Updated: July 18, 6:54 a.m.

Still a good size crowd on Mauna Kea, where a protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope continues for the fourth day -- about 200 or so. No riot poice are in sight, says HPR's Ryan Finnerty. 

The day is starting out cold. He tweets: "For anyone unfamiliar with Hawaii and people from here, 50 degrees is considered apocalyptically cold and people are sleeping out here like this. Maybe the Big Island makes them tougher."

 

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Credit Ryan Finnerty/HPR

The arrival of construction equipment for the Thirty Meter Telescope will be the next major development in the now four-day-long demonstration against the planned Mauna Kea observatory. The situation is already tense: on Wednesday, more than 30 protesters were arrested by state law enforcement and cited for obstructing government operations.

 

The numbers of demonstrators have grown. Officials estimated about 1,000 protesters gathered at the intersection of Mauna Kea Access Road and Daniel K. Inouye Highway Wednesday, an escalation from the few hundred earlier in the week. Officials temporarily clossed the highway for public safety reasons because of activity by the protesters.

At one point, police in riot gear faced off with the demonstrators, but later withdrew to their vehicles. The demonstrators declared victory. 

Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation, saying protesters had broken the law and failed to heed instructions from law enforcement officers. The governor said the latest protests were such that they appeared to exceed the ability of police and first responders to keep the public safe.

The proclamation will give law enforcement more ability to control access to the mountain.

Hawai'i Public Radio's Ryan Finnerty is on Hawai'i Island reporting on developments as they unfold. HPR's Ku'uwehi Hiraishi will be covering events and policymakers from Honolulu. 

Correction: Dates for updates have been corrected for July 18.

 

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