Day Five: Governor Holds Off On More National Guard, TMT Protesters File Suits

Jul 20, 2019

Hawaii 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 further 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."

Meanwhile, TMT opponents again took their fight to the courts.

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.

Children and music are part of the scene Friday at the protest against the planned Thirty Meter Telescope.
Credit Ryan Finnerty/AP

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. HPR asked for a response from the other counties and the state and but did not receive replies immediately.

State officials estimated about 1,000 people gathered at the protest against the planned Thirty Meter Telescope Friday. The numbers were expected to swell over the weekend.

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.

Construction of the telescope was scheduled to begin this week but the protests have delayed those plans.

While Daniel K. Inouye Highway was open Friday, Mauna Kea Access Road from the cattle guard located about an eighth of a mile from the intersection of the two roadways, has been closed to unauthorized vehicles and pedestrians.