Lieutenant Governor Visits Mauna Kea Protesters

Jul 22, 2019

Updated: July 22, 4:30 p.m.

State officials estimated the crowd on Monday stood at 1,500 people at the site of the protest against the planned Thirty Meter Telescope. There were no arrests.

Officials said when informed by law enforcement officers about alcohol and marijuana use at the site last week, protest leaders said they would patrol the area and ask violators to leave. "Those efforts were successful as officers say there is no longer evidence of alcohol and marijuana use," the state said in a media news release.

Also, those climbing the volcanic cone at Puʻu Huluhulu were advised to take precautions to prevent the spread of Rapid Ohia Death. 

Updated: July 22, 4:16 p.m.

Fifty-six Honolulu police officers were sent to the Big Island to help with law enforcement at the Mauna Kea TMT protest, a police department spokeswoman said Monday. The number was provided to media representatives after City Councilman Ron Menor asked for information on the deployment in a letter to Police Chief Susan Ballard dated Monday.

Menor asked why HPD officers were used and not state personnel since the TMT project is under state jursidiction and located on Hawaii Island. He also asked for information on the officers' travel and salaries and who would be responsible for the costs.

"The diversion of HPD personnel and resources off island is a serious concern where adequate police protection for communities on this island should be the top priority for HPD," Menor said. He cited a KITV report that said suspects in a Kalihi burglary could not be arrested because a HPD detective assigned to the case had gone to the Big Island.

The request for HPD assistance came from the Hawaii Island police department, HPD spokeswoman Sarah Yoro said in an email. The 56 officers were assigned to keep roadways clear for movement of construction equipment and vehicles. The HPD officers will return Monday and Tuesday.

HPD will pay for their salaries and other expenses, including overtime and airfare, and "will be reimbursed by the Attorney General's office," acccording to Yoro.

"The four county police departments have a long history of joint missions and interagency assistance," she stated.

Updated: July 22, 11:24 a.m.

About 1,000 people continue to protest the planned Thirty Meter Telescope near the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye and Mauna Kea Access Road, state officials said Monday. Officials also gave more details about reports of drugs and alcohol use at the site, which protest leaders have denied.

At a Friday press conference, Gov. David Ige charged the protest leaders have not been able to control the behavior of the protesters, hundreds of whom have gathered to demonstrate against the telescope. He said some have used drugs and alcohol.

Protest leader Kahoʻokahi Kanuha called the governorʻs statement "lies" and vowed to continue to oppose the telescopeʻs construction.

During a Monday morning media teleconference, state spokesman Dan Dennison said law enforcement officers had observed people drinking beer and smelled marijuana last week. He said over the last few days, there have been no more reports of drugs or alcohol use.

Meanwhile, Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green met Monday morning with leaders of the eight-day protest against the planned Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

Appearing on island TV news stations, Green said he came to the mountain to "listen and respect people." Green, an emergency room physician, told Hawaii News Now that he had treated protesters for exhausion at Kohala Hospital. He called their condition "spiritual exhaustion."

He also treated one person with a severe heart problem.

Green said he visited the scene of the protest to make sure people were alright rather than to make a political statement.

But his comments suggested a rebuke of Gov. David Ige, who has not visited the protesters since their latest demonstration began July 15, this despite a visit to Hawaii Island on Friday.