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Latest Developments In Week-Long TMT Protest

Updated: July 19, 6:03 p.m.

At least two cultural practitioners have filed for temporary restraining orders against local officials in connection with the protest on Mauna Kea. In one, E. Kalani Flores is challenging use of Honolulu and Maui police in law enforcement activities on the mountain, stating they exceeded their territorial jursidiction in exercising their police powers along with Hawai'i Island police. The suit names the chiefs of police from the three counties.

In another lawsuit, the kumu hula Paul Kevin Neves sued Gov. David Ige, charging the goveror abused his executive authority to "favor and accommodate TMT construction activities while suppressing and violating the rights of the public to express their opposition to the project and the rights of Native Hawaiians to honor, worship, and protect Mauna Kea."

The Honolulu Police Department declined comment. We've asked for a response from the other counties and the state as well and will post their replies when received.

Updated: July 19, 5:09 p.m.

About 1,000 people gathered at the protest against the planned Thirty Meter Telescope Friday, the state estimated in its end of day summary. Officials have several times sought to shoot down some of the protesters' rhetoric as untrue, including the assertion that the state has approved excessive force. "This, and rhetoric such as "the state is preparing for war," is dangerous and false," officials said.

Updated: July 19, 3:15 p.m.

Gov. David Ige held an unusual news conference at the Hilo airport Friday afternoon, saying that he does not want to “escalate the situation” on Mauna Kea, and is not calling in additional troops from the National Guard.  

He says he has no plans to go to Mauna Kea, but remains concerned about safety conditions there. He is also not backing off plans to move construction equipment up the mountain.

“We have been very patient with all of those on Mauna Kea, but we will continue to enforce the law,” he said.

The governor also praised efforts of law enforcement on Mauna Kea, saying that officers conducting arrests earlier this week were “courteous, respectful and kind.”

He also repeated an offer to talk with leaders of the protests.

The governor said he believes the TMT construction is "an important project for all of Hawaii and all of mankind."

Updated: July 19, 2:30 p.m.

Gov. David Ige is on Hawai?i Island, but details of his visit were not disclosed during an afternoon press conference with state officials. Officials estimate between 800 and 1,200 protesters are gathered at the intersection of Saddle Road (Daniel K. Inouye Highway) and Mauna Kea Access Road, and that number is expected to grow this weekend.

DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison told reporters safety remains a primary concern for law enforcement officials heading into the weekend, and emphasized anyone planning to protest, or travel in the area, this weekend to be vigilant and safe.

"We want to be sure that everyone gets out of, whatever the ultimate outcome is, here safe and sound, and gets home to their families," said Dennison.

11:32 a.m.

State officials would not discuss when construction equipment could be moved up Mauna Kea Road in preparation for construction of the planned Thirty Meter Telescope. During a Friday teleconference, Jason Redulla, state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement chief, said for operational security reasons, those details were being withheld.

Officials have frequently used that description in declining to give information about plans for the construction convoy and law enforcement movements.

Redulla called some information about law enforcement on social media "false" and "outlandish." He said there is no truth to the assertion that the state has approved the use of excessive force. 

He said officials are continuing to prepare for the start of construction, but could not go into detail about which police agencies are involved, other than to say county and state law enforcement are working together.

Several hundred protesters are at the protest site now, a number that could grow over the weekend. 

"We have the resources to bring about a peaceful resolution," said Dan Meisenzahl, University of Hawaii spokesman and member of the state's Mauna Kea media team.

Friday is the day when construction equipment may begin rolling up Mauna Kea Access Road to support the construction of the planned Thirty Meter Telescope. That development, if it comes, would follow a week that saw arrests of protesters, closure of a major highway, police in riot gear and a state emergency proclamation.

Officials have been clearing the access road of demonstrators who oppose the building of the telescope. On Thursday, the state announced Mauna Kea Access Road is now closed to both unauthorized vehicles and foot traffic.

The observatory would be the 14th on the mountain, which is revered by many native Hawaiians as sacred land.

This story is developing. Please return for updates.

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. 

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