By Jeff King
With 11 more arrests Wednesday on the Big Island as the movement to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), Governor David Ige has been put in the position of issuing statements followed by retractions. On Tuesday – in advance of the scheduled construction restart, Hawai’i State Chief of Staff Mike McCartney issued this statement on behalf of the governor – who is in Washington, D.C. attending an energy forum:
“It is our belief that there will be mutual respect and aloha on Wednesday and in the days ahead as TMT restarts construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
“TMT has the approvals needed to proceed with construction. We respect those who oppose the project and their right to peaceably assemble and to protest in an orderly and civil manner.
“The State of Hawai‘i’s primary concern is the health and safety of its people. The state and Hawai‘i County are working together to uphold the law and ensure safety on roadways and on Mauna Kea, while allowing the people their right to peacefully and lawfully protest.”
After hundreds of Mauna A Wakea protectors blocked construction crews and vehicles, Police and DLNR enforcement officers encountered little resistance – but were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. In total, 11 people were arrested. Also, “somehow,” large boulders were strewn across the rugged access roads leading to the TMT site – forcing vehicles back. After that news made to D.C. last night, Governor Ige’s Chief of Staff said:
“Eleven adults were arrested by the Hawai‘i Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) Wednesday, during a protest to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea.
“The arrests are unfortunate, but the state’s number one priority is the safety of the people on Mauna Kea – from TMT workers to protestors who are exercising their first amendment rights to peaceably assemble and protest in a civil manner.
“We are disappointed and concerned that large boulders were found in the roadway leading to the summit of Mauna Kea. This action is a serious and significant safety hazard and could put people at risk.
“Because of this, we are making an assessment to determine how to proceed.
“We will be working to clear the roadway tomorrow. Therefore, construction is on hold until further notice.”
On Maui, a rapidly arranged but largely attended gathering Wednesday night tried to block large trucks from transporting building materials to the summit of Haleakala to complete the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope. The group gathered at the entrance of the Central Maui Baseyard along Mokulele Highway from 8 p.m. until well after midnight. A video, recorded at 2:38 a.m. today, appears to show a representative of the planned trucking project addressing the crowd, confirming the overnight-haul was cancelled. View the clip here.
An unintended consequence of the scheduled haul was the closure of the road to the Summit – preventing early risers from viewing today’s sunrise from the peak of the House of The Sun. The road is set to reopen at 2 p.m. today.
On a semi-related topic, activists on Maui are being particularly active lately. Tonight in Kihei, a community forum has been set from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the topic of cane burning. Details on the planned event are available here.