Lawsuit over police on Mauna Kea goes before high court

HILO — A lawsuit challenging using police forces from other islands to respond to protests over a giant telescope planned for Hawaii’s tallest mountain is headed to the state Supreme Court.

Police officers from Oahu and Maui flew to the Big Island in 2019 to help control protesters who blocked the mountain’s access road. Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope say it will desecrate land held sacred by Native Hawaiians.

Big Island resident E. Kalani Flores’ lawsuit against police chiefs of the Hawaii County, Maui County and Honolulu forces argues his rights to observe Native Hawaiian cultural practices on Mauna Kea were violated by the police presence.

The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case next month, Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Friday.

The lawsuit said police violated a state statute that a police chief can operate on a neighboring island if doing so is required in the pursuit of an investigation that started in that chief’s jurisdiction.

The lawsuit was initially dismissed because of a technicality and later went before the state Intermediate Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the police chiefs.

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