Latest Developments On TMT Protests At Mauna Kea

Jul 17, 2019

Updated: July 17, 5:55 p.m.

State officials estimated 1,000 people gathered near the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Mauna Kea Access Road Wednesday as the protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope ramped up following the arrests of over 30 native Hawaiian elders and others opposed to the observatory project.

In a summary of the day's events, the state said the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement issued citations to 33 people for obstructing government operations to those arrested, and then released them. Arraignments are scheduled for Sept. 20 at 8:30 a.m.

Four people were taken in ambulances to be treated for minor health problems, the state said.

Transportation officials closed about 30 miles of the highway, also known as Saddle Road, after protesters used their vehicles to attempt to block the thoroughfare, posing a safety hazard. It has since been reopened.

Updated: July 17, 5:03 p.m.

The Hawaii governorʻs proclamation of a state of emergency follows an effort by protesters to close Daniel K. Inouye Highway using cars to block traffic as opponents of the Thirty Meter Observatory continued efforts to stop its construction. The cars were cleared away and the highway was closed for a time. It has been reopened.

"Our top priority is the safety and security of our communities and the TMT construction teams. This is a long-term process and we are committed to enforcing the law and seeing this project through," Ige said in a statement.

Updated: July 17, 3:51 p.m.

Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation Wednesday that will allow law enforcement to close off more parts of Mauna Kea and nearby roadways where protesters are in the third day of demonstrations against the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Updated: July 17, 3 p.m.

State officials said 33 people were arrested Wednesday as protesters continue their demonstrations against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

All involved misdemeanors for obstructing government operations with a Sept. 20 court date. Many accepted citations and were released.

Updated: July 17, 2:29 p.m.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs issued a statement stating: "The Native Hawaiian community weeps today." Protesters, including kupuna or elders, were arrested as they demonstrated for the third day on Wednesday against the planned construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

"To see some of our most respected kūpuna, advocates and ʻohana get arrested for voicing the same concerns our community has expressed for decades over the stateʻs mismanagement of Maunakea brings a kaumaha [heaviness] to our hearts that is unbearable," the statement reads.

OHA filed a lawsuit against the state and University of Hawaii citing "their mismanagement of Maunakea."

Updated: July 18, 1:10 p.m.

Conditions have turned cold with intermittent rain as protesters and law enforcement officials continue a faceoff Wednesday on Manua Kea Access Road. The demonstration, in its third day, aims to block construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

Several protesters chanted, "We are not American. We will never be American," a line that HPR's Ryan Finnerty says he hadn't heard during the protest.

Updated: July 17, 12:54 p.m.

EDITED: Hawai'i County officials have closed Daniel K. Inouye Highway, formerly Saddle Road, leading to where protesters and law enforcement officials are faced off as demonstrators continue to attempt to block the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

The county said the highway was being closed for safety reasons due to the activity at the Mauna Kea Road intersection. The road closure on the west side is off Mamalahoa Highway at Mile Marker 42 with local traffic only to Waikii Road. All other traffic should avoid the area.

On the east side, the highway is closed at Mile Marker 11, above Kaumana Drive. They advise drivers to take alternate routes and monitor updates.

Updated: July 17, 12:22 p.m.

Honolulu police equipped with pepper spray have arrived on site as about 30 to 50 protesters block Mauna Kea Access Road in a demonstration against the start of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Updated: July 17, 9:03 a.m.

Two vans full of those arrested have left as protesters were taken into custody on day three of the demonstration against the start of the Thirty Meter Telescope construction. Reporters were told they are headed for Hilo jail. A third van is being loaded. 

The vans hold about 9 to 10 people each.

Updated: July 17, 8:18 a.m.

Several law enforcement officers joined in the pre-arrest prayer with protesters before elders among the demonstrators were taken into custody on day three of the protests against start of the Thirty Meter Telescope construction. The scene reflects the conflict that the officers, many from Hawai'i Island, feel about the controversy.

Updated: July 17, 8:14 a.m.

Law enforcement officers are equipped for a riot but HPR's Ryan Finnerty reports it's extremely calm, orderly and quiet as elders are arrested and led away on day three of the protests against start of the Thirty Meter Telescope construction.

Police are attempting to treat people carefully and some demonstrators are keeping people off the Mauna Kea Access Road, the roadway that needs to be cleared for construction vehicles to get to the building site near the summit.

Updated: July 17, 7:49 a.m.

One man is refusing to leave as law enforcement officers arrest elders and others on day three of the continuing protest against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. He said "whatever way you gotta do," and made clear he was resisting arrest.

Updated: July 17, 7:49 a.m.

Law enforcement vans are on scene and the elders are designating others to be arrested with them on day three of the continuing protest against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Updated: July 17, 7:34 a.m.

Elders or kupuna and their caregivers are being arrested, protest leader Pua Case said, on day three of the continuing protest against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Law enforcement have moved people 10 feet off the Mauna Kea Access Road, which construction vehicles will need to traverse to get to the telescope's building site near the summit.

Updated: July 17, 7:19 a.m.

Police and other law enforcement officials have gathered on Mauna Kea Access Road on day three of the continuing protest against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Protest leaders have been talking to the officials and emotions are running high.

Updated: July 17, 6:45 a.m.

It's a cold morning Wednesday on day three of the continuing protest against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. No arrests have been carried out and neither have construction equipment moved up the mountain. But HPR's Ryan Finnerty says a state official advised him in a friendly way to stay off the road or risk arrest.

The official said that he didn't know what would happen today, but that "something will."

An estimated 200 protesters created a checkpoint near the entrance to Mauna Kea Access Road. Leaders of the protest have been talking to state law enforcement officers and negotiating over issues that include access to the summit, which has been rejected.

Jason Redulla, chief of the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, said law enforcement officials have been moving deliberately, all in preparation for the "path to construction."

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.