Big Island Mayor Harry Kim says the state will order National Guard to stand down and that police will not immediately use force to remove peaceful telescope protesters blocking a road to the summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.
Kim told The Associated Press that he met with Gov. David Ige Friday after the governor signed an emergency proclamation earlier this week that gave law enforcement more power to remove protesters from the mountain.
The governor said last week that National Guard units would be used to transport personnel and equipment as well as to enforce road closures. The emergency proclamation broadened the state’s authority to use the National Guard for security.
Kim says the governor agreed that the National Guard would stand down while the protesters and state authorities discussed a peaceful way forward.
U.S. presidential candidate and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has followed Bernie Sanders in supporting protesters fighting the construction of a giant telescope in Gabbard’s home state.
In a statement Friday, Gabbard says that while Thirty Meter Telescope has the legal authority to be built on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea, there are spiritual and cultural issues that are being ignored.
Sanders tweeted his endorsement earlier Friday saying native people’s right to self-determination needs to be protected. He added that he stands with Native Hawaiians trying to protect the mountain.
Gabbard chimed in later, saying the construction site is a “revered and sacred sanctuary” where Hawaiians practice cultural traditions.
Before her statement Friday, a week of calls and emails from The Associated Press to Gabbard to request comment on the protests went unanswered.
Activists have been illegally occupying the road leading to the summit since Monday. A group of 34 people have been arrested.