The Latest: Hawaii protests spur order over mountain access

  • Police in riot gear are lined up on a road in Hawaii where an estimated 2,000 people are gathered to protest construction of a telescope on a mountain that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred, on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe says officials on Wednesday closed a highway leading to the protest site so a convoy of construction equipment can be brought up Mauna Kea. Protesters are off to the side of the road, singing. (Cindy Ellen Russell/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

HONOLULU — The Latest on protests of a telescope on Hawaii mountain (all times local):

4:20 p.m.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has signed an emergency proclamation he says will allow officials to close more areas of a mountain where thousands have gathered to protest the construction of a giant telescope on land some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Ige says the proclamation signed Wednesday gives law enforcement more authority to control Mauna Kea land and close roads.

Officials want to allow trucks to deliver construction materials to the telescope site. But protesters have been blocking a road up to the summit.

Officers arrested 33 people Wednesday morning. Protest leaders describe them as kupuna, or elders, who were willing to be arrested. They were cited and released.


3:40 p.m.

Officials say 33 people were arrested for blocking the road to the summit of Hawaii’s tallest peak during ongoing protests against construction of a giant telescope.

State spokesman Dan Dennison says all 33 where given citations and released Wednesday.

Protest leaders say those arrested were kupuna, or elders, who were prepared and willing to be taken into custody.

Transportation officials said they decided to close the highway leading to the protest site because of motorists and pedestrians in the roadway. Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe says the road was also closed to allow a convoy of trucks to pass.

Hours later, the convoy didn’t arrive and police in riot gear left the protest area. The highway was later reopened.

Okabe estimates there were 2,000 people gathered.


12:20 p.m.

Police in riot gear are lined up on a road in Hawaii where an estimated 2,000 people are gathered to protest construction of a telescope on a mountain that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe says officials on Wednesday closed a highway leading to the protest site so a convoy of construction equipment can be brought up Mauna Kea.

Protesters are off to the side of the road, singing.

Several protesters have been arrested, but state spokesman Dan Dennison couldn’t confirm a number of people arrested or what the charges they face.

Protester Walter Ritte says he was driven down the mountain, given a citation and released. He’s back at the base of Mauna Kea but says he agreed not to block the road.


8:50 a.m.

Hawaii officials say police are arresting protesters who are blocking a road to prevent construction of a giant telescope on a mountain that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Police arrived to Mauna Kea on Wednesday and started taking away about 30 elders, who are ready and willing to be arrested.

Protest leader Kealoha Pisciotta says hundreds of protesters had planned to clear the road to allow the elders to be taken away.

Some are using canes and strollers to walk. Others are taken in wheelchairs to police vans. Those who can walk on their own are being led to police vehicles with their hands in zip ties.

Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe says construction equipment is expected to start going up the mountain later Wednesday.


8:20 a.m.

Police are removing protesters who are blocking access to Hawaii’s tallest peak where a telescope will be constructed on land some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Protest leader Kealoha Pisciotta tells The Associated Press that police are taking Hawaiian elders off the road leading to Mauna Kea on the Big Island.

Pisciotta says a state law enforcement official told protesters earlier Wednesday that police would be coming in to arrest those who are blocking the road.

She says the protesters’ plan is for hundreds of protesters to move to the side of the road and allow police to take away about 30 elders, who are willing and ready to be arrested.

Officials with the state wouldn’t confirm that arrests are happening.


12 a.m.

Astronomers have stopped peering through 13 telescopes on top of Hawaii’s tallest peak as protesters block the road to try to prevent construction of a giant observatory on the mountain that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Dozens of researchers from around the globe won’t be able to gather data and study the sky atop Mauna Kea, one of the world’s best spots for astronomy with clear weather nearly year-round and minimal light pollution.

Observations won’t resume until staffers have consistent access to the summit, which is needed to ensure their safety, said Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of the East Asian Observatory, one of the existing telescopes.

“Our science time is precious, but in this case, our priority is just to make sure all of our staff is safe,” Dempsey said.

The announcement came as Native Hawaiian protesters blocked the base of the road for a second day Tuesday. They object to construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, which is expected to be one of the world’s most advanced when it’s built, out of concern it will further harm the mountain.

Hawaii authorities haven’t arrested any protesters but have indicated they would. Law enforcement was focused on preparing a path to construction, said Jason Redulla, chief of the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.

Protesters said they told authorities that they would allow telescope technicians to pass if they could drive one car to the summit each day for cultural and religious practices. No agreement was reached.

The East Asian Observatory was scheduled to study carbon monoxide clouds in star-forming regions inside the Milky Way on Tuesday night. Dempsey called the clouds “the DNA of how baby stars form” and said they help astronomers figure out how stars work.

Officials closed the road to the top of the mountain starting this week to allow construction to begin, attracting hundreds of protesters who formed their own roadblocks.

Gov. David Ige has said unarmed National Guard units would be used to transport personnel and supplies to the peak but would not be used as law enforcement during the protests.

Demonstrators said they wouldn’t allow National Guard members to pass.

Kaho’okahi Kanuha, one of the protest leaders, told reporters that efforts to stop the Thirty Meter Telescope were about protecting Hawaii’s indigenous people.

“This is about our right to exist,” he said. “We fight and resist and we stand, or we disappear forever.”

Other Native Hawaiians say they don’t believe the Thirty Meter Telescope will desecrate Mauna Kea. Most of the cultural practices on the mountain take place away from the summit, said Annette Reyes, a Native Hawaiian from the Big Island.

“It’s going to be out of sight, out of mind,” she said.

Reyes said many others agree, but they’re reluctant to publicly support the telescope because of bullying from protesters, a group she calls a “vocal minority.” She says she’s been called a fake Hawaiian for supporting the project.

Reyes said Hawaii’s young people can’t afford to miss out on educational opportunities, citing telescope officials’ pledge to provide $1 million every year to boost science, technology, engineering and math education.

She challenged the characterization of the dispute as a clash between science and culture, saying science was an integral part of ancient Hawaiian lives.

“Everything they did was science, from growing fish and taro to wayfinding,” Reyes said.

The project has been delayed by years of legal battles and demonstrations. Last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that telescope officials had legally obtained a permit, clearing the way for construction to begin.

Telescope opponents last week filed another petition in court, saying the project must post a security bond equivalent to the construction contract cost before starting to build.

Doug Ing, an attorney for the Thirty Meter Telescope, said the latest lawsuit has no merit and is another delay tactic.

The company behind the project is made up of a group of universities in California and Canada, with partners from China, India and Japan.

  1. harry oyama July 18, 2019 6:17 pm Reply

    Hey parasite racist Japanese plantation overstayed illegal descendants have no right to order the arrest of native Hawaiians when his own ancestor a Japanese plantation immigrant violated his 3 year work contract by overstaying. His whole generation should have been deported the same way Trump is trying to deport illegals in America.

    And yes, Native Hawaiians should also reject the entire Christian fallacy religion the same way then King Kamehameha told those missionaries to have their priest jump off the cliff and onto the rocks below to make him believe their god is valid. He never jumped, and so should you Hawaiians not jump for this Christian religion is just another tool that is used to suppress native rights so they can steal and rob you.

    Native Hawaiians should go back to their roots and invoke the most feared and dreaded black magic Kahuna spiritual movement against those who seek to imprison them. That is the primary reason why the corrupt and greedy Catholic Vatican sent over Father Damon to suppress the Hawaiians.

    Religion and the law of the white men are just tools to steal and conquer Native Hawaiians, but they don’t understand the science of this spiritual realm as much as the Hawaiians who once used it to repel the warriors of Pa’aoa who introduced the human sacrifice war religion that proved to be the down fall of Native Hawaiians. These warriors could not penetrate an invisible force field created by the most dreaded of all kahunas of Molokai of which the last King Kamuali’i was trained by his mother of the same sect from Molokai and the reason why Kamehameha forces were defeated twice while attempting to wage war on Kauai. It is part of your heritage and should be again used for your own benefit, not the laws of the white men as evidenced by the recent Facebook land grabbing scene with the traitor Hawaiian music professor Carlos Andrade.

  2. harry oyama July 18, 2019 6:25 pm Reply

    Why don’t this corrupt Japanese sugar plantation descendant say that the Native Hawaiian Crown Lands which these telescopes sit on are mis-managed by the State for $1 dollar a year lease, which in turn the corrupt State sub-leases to UH for $17 million a year.

    So the question is where is all this money going to, not the Hawaiians who are the legal sole benefactors of the Crown Lands, but to equally corrupt me-come-first Japanese plantation descendants who are actually illegal immigrants who overstayed their original 3 year work contracts, like those of the most corrupt DNLR of Kauai, all former State retired Japanese legislatures getting sweet heart $1 dollar a year leases making $millions off the backs of Native Hawaiians, while Hawaiians continue to die waiting for Hawaiian Home Lands and these illegal Japanese getting fat from State pensions and double dipping getting $1 dollar leases that they sublease at enormous profit.

    If anything, the Japanese governor Ige should be arresting his fellow “country men”, but no he’ll rather arrest Native Hawaiians.

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