Latest On Protest Against TMT Construction on Mauna Kea

Jul 16, 2019

Updated: July 16, 6:18 p.m.

State officials estimated about 200 protesters gathered near the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Mauna Kea Access Road on Tuesday, day two of the protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope construction. It is a smaller crowd number than was estimated Monday, when 300 to 500 demonstrators gathered to protest the building of the telescope.

There have been no arrests for the day, the state said in a 5 p.m. news release.

Updated: July 16, 4:28 p.m.

Astronomers and support personnel are being pulled off Mauna Kea to ensure their safety. That's the latest word in the second day of protests against the planned construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Directors of the 13 existing observatories on the mountain made the decision.

"Without guaranteed reliable access to the telescopes, the Maunakea Observatories will suspend all summit activities. We anticipate returning to normal operations as soon as the situation allows," said astronomer Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of the East Asian Observatory.

There have been no arrests of demonstrators on Tuesday thus far.

Updated: July 16, 3 p.m.

A state media team representative said it was a false alarm after law enforcement set up a roadblock on Mauna Kea Access Road and Honolulu Police Department along with a large convoy arrived on scene. This is day two of the protests against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The spokesman said the police were driving up to the command center.

Several workers trying to go up the road have been politely turned back.

Updated: July 16, 2:48 p.m.

TMT International Observatory, developers of the telescope due to start construction this week, says the opponents' filing for a temporary restraining order to halt the project lacks merit.

The response filed Monday rejects the opponents' argument that TIO needs to post the equivalent of the telescope's construction contract cost before it can build the observatory. 

“The petitioners’ lawsuit is just another tactic to unduly delay the TMT project,” said Doug Ing, attorney for TIO in a news release.

The plaintiffs, including Kealoha Pisciotta of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, want a security bond posted covering the full cost of the project, estimated as high as $2 billion. Without it, they say, the people of Hawai'i are financially liable.

Updated: 12:31 p.m.

A state official estimated several hundred protesters remain at the base of Mauna Kea, where a protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope continued Tuesday.

Kahoʻokahi Kanuha, a protest leader, says the demonstrators were not able to come to agreement with law enforcement officials on barring access up Mauna Kea by Hawaii Army National Guard, to allow one vehicle of demonstrators up the mountain each day and allowing a protesters' checkpoint near the entrance of the access road.

Kanuha said an informal agreement had been struck with law enforcement Monday night to allow protesters to maintain a checkpoint about 100 feet below the cattle guard. Protesters had agreed to allow state sheriffs, Hale Pōhaku personnel, and observatory technicians up the mountain. In exchange, both protesters and astronomers were blocked from going past a second checkpoint at the cattle guard maintained by law enforcement officials.

“Today the communication lines remain open and dialogue continues as we work on the path forward to construction,” said Jason Redulla, chief of the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, during a teleconference with reporters. 

He said the number of demonstrators are fewer Tuesday than Monday, first day of the protest. But Redulla urged drivers using Daniel K. Inouye Highway, formerly Saddle Road, to be careful because of the crowds of demonstrators.

Updated: July 16, 11:03 a.m.

Citing security, the Honolulu Police Department is withholding the number and travel schedules of officers who will be helping law enforcement at Mauna Kea, where a protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope is in its second day.

The assistance from HPD was requested by Hawaiʻi County police. HPD will be helping to clear roadways for movement of construction equipment and vehicles. The personnel were chosen so that police services on Oʻahu aren't impacted, HPD said in a statement.

Updated: July 16, 10:28 a.m.

After a meeting of their elders, the demonstrators appear to have reached a consensus in day two of the Thirty Meter Telescope protest. They will not allow National Guard personnel to move up the mountain, but will alllow daily service and maintenance of the mountain facilities in return for their own cultural access.

Police have a checkpoint 200 yards above the intersection. The demonstators' checkpoint is closer to Saddle Road, effectively giving them control over access for the time being.

Updated: July 16, 7:53 a.m.

As law enforcement and protest leadership continue to talk out topics on day two of the Thirty Meter Telescope demonstrations, two issues are among those that emerge: who is subject to arrest and the Hawaii Army National Guard.

A DLNR officer told protest leader Kaho'okahi Kanuha that the National Guard will be used for logistics. A state sheriff also said the National Guard could supplement law enforcement at checkpoints. They can check IDs but cannot detain anyone.

Yesterday, several Army National Guard trucks were seen passing the demonstration area going in the direction of the military's Pohakuloa Training Ground.

Updated: July 16, 7:21 a.m.

Talks continue as the two sides work out agreements on various issues in day two of the latest demonstrations against the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. 

Updated: July 16, 6:53 a.m.

Demonstrators and law enforcement officials are holding a meeting as 7 a.m. approaches on day two of the latest demonstration against building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. That's the deadline for a "truce" worked out by leaders of both sides. 

The Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement is the lead agency for law enforcement today, according to Dan Dennison. Dennison is spokesman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and DOCARE is the department's enforcement arm. DLNR and state sheriffs slept overnight at Hale Pohaku, the Mauna Kea visitor center.

Hawai'i County is scheduled to take the lead tomorrow, he said. 

Updated: July 16, 6:29 a.m.

Officials have closed off Mauna Kea Access Road to vehicles with barriers and signs as day two of the latest demonstration against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope begins Tuesday. Foot traffic is allowed and protesters are gathering on the access road as the day begins.

Law enforcement officers are also back at Mauna Kea Access Road and Daniel K. Inouye Highway, formerly Saddle Road. Barriers line the highway as officials try to control parking and route drivers safely around the area.

This story is developing. Please return for updates throughout the day. 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.