Day Two: TMT Protesters Set Up Checkpoint, Astronomers Withdraw From Mauna Kea

Jul 17, 2019

There were no arrests and no movement of construction equipment Tuesday, the second day of demonstrations against the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The day began quietly. Around 150 demonstrators set up a checkpoint at the bottom of the Mauna Kea Access Road. Their numbers were down from the 300 or more of the previous day.

But the situation appeared to deteriorate after negotiations deadlocked between state police officers and demonstrators over access to the Mauna Kea summit.

Demonstrators wanted National Guard troops kept off the mountain and for cultural practitioners to have limited access to the summit area.

"All of those terms were non-negotiable to them," said Kaho’okahi Kanuha, one of the protest leaders. "They weren’t interested in talking about the National Guard. Under no circumstances were they willing to allow us to take a vehicle up to the summit. And so after hours of negotiating, we have no agreement."

Observatory workers and emergency first responders were allowed through the checkpoints -- the one set up by the protesters and the other by police.

At one point it appeared police might take action when a convoy of Honolulu Police vehicles drove past the protesters checkpoint. But late in the afternoon, a state Department of Land and Natural Resources officer informed a group of elders that no arrests would be made.

Shortly after that, DLNR’s top law enforcement officer Jason Redulla said police are moving deliberately.

"No one has been arrested today and right now our primary focus continues to be the safety of everyone on Mauna Kea and the roadways. Our priority is preparation so that we can get on the path toward construction," Redulla said.

Once that buildup is complete, some kind of police sweep of the access road appears inevitable.

Around two dozen observatory workers had been staying on the mountain since Sunday. The existing observatories made the decision to withdraw all their workers, with no plans to resume operations until the situation allows it.