“As one person in the tent was arrested, however, they were being replaced by someone else.”
“We’re kupuna fighting for our families,” said Ranette Robinson, one of those arrested.
“We came to protect our sacred land,” another protester said. “There’s not much more we have left.”
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – A day after 34 were arrested for blocking the access road to the summit of Mauna Kea, leaders of a growing TMT protest say they’re not going anywhere and claimed the governor’s emergency proclamation for the mountain is an “abuse of power.”
“Calling out the National Guard is an insult to Hawaiians,” said Native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte, speaking at a news conference Thursday morning. “This mountain is united. We cannot get a governor who is abusing powers take it away from us. This is an issue that goes out to all Hawaiians.”
Ritte was among 34 people ― all but one of whom were kupuna ― arrested Wednesday at protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope planned for Mauna Kea’s summit.
Following the arrests, the governor issued a state of emergency for Mauna Kea, saying the proclamation would give the state “more flexibility” to handle the protest and try to secure access for construction equipment to get to planned site for the telescope on the mountain.
“The protesters continue to break the law and place the safety of the public at risk,” Ige said, at a news conference. “It’s very clear that we need to be able to secure access in a better way.”
Despite the strong words, there was no immediate action Thursday morning to try to move protesters again from the access road to the summit ― and the state hasn’t said when more arrests could happen.
On Thursday afternoon, state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison offered few new updates but did say that the Mauna Kea Access Road has now been closed to pedestrian traffic. Previously, the road had been closed only to cars.
Kahookahi Kanuha, among those leading the protest, said it did not appear law enforcement was ready to take action Thursday morning but an announcement could happen later in the day.
The arrests Wednesday started around 8 a.m. and continued until about 11 a.m., when they stopped abruptly. Authorities said those arrested all elected to get cited with a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of a government operation, rather than being booked at the Hilo police station.
Despite the arrests, the protest at the base of the summit has remained peaceful, with some going so far as to embrace law enforcement officers before they were taken into custody.
The arrests happened on the third day of protests at the base of Mauna Kea, where an estimated 1,000 protesters have gathered to try to block construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
Before the arrests, law enforcement agencies were in intense negotiations with protesters to try to convince them to clear the Mauna Kea Access Road and allow TMT construction equipment to pass.
Around mid-day Wednesday, Dennison said arrests had “stopped for the time being” and he could not say when they would resume.