Police and protesters are awaiting the arrival of construction equipment for the planned Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, a day after more than 30 opponents of the observatory were arrested by state law enforcement.
On Wednesday, the third day of demonstrations against the telescope began with a tense, early morning negotiation between law enforcement and protest leaders. The result was the anti-TMT movement’s kupuna leaders and their supporters agreeing to voluntary arrest.
Thirty-three were taken into custody by police – with many needing physical assistance to reach law enforcement vans. But one man – native Hawaiian activist Billy Freitas – laid down on the ground and told police they would have to remove him physically from the mountain.
"I'm not willing to leave any place. I respect you, brah, but I cannot give in. I let you guys mana carry me. Whatever way you gotta make easy for you, make easy for you. Gotta roll me over, whatever," Freitas said.
On Oahu, protest supporters caused a slowdown on the H-1. That was according to Ed Sniffen with the state Department of Transportation.
"Right now we’re hopeful that the protest stays on this side," Sniffen said. "We’re hopeful that we don’t have to impact the rest of the island, and we’re hopeful that we don’t have to shut the road down again, but we’re prepared to do that to make sure everyone stays safe."
In response to the disruptions, Gov. David Ige declared an emergency proclamation that he said will give law enforcement more flexibility to control access to and around Mauna Kea.
"Since Monday, protesters have illegally occupied roads and highways. Even though law enforcement has done everything it can to reason, the protesters continue to break the law and place the safety of the public at risk," Ige said.
Neither officials with the state or the Thirty Meter Telescope would give a timeline for when construction equipment will begin ascending the mountain.
The TMT project is expected to take 10 years to complete.