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Ige vows to keep road to Mauna Kea accessible to all

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"Mikey" Kalaemano Kealoha Makuakane Kahilihiwa Kaina, left in blue jacket, is comforted by Pono Kuikahi. Kaina said he was clipped by a vehicle going up Mauna Kea and fell off the back of a truck Friday morning.

Gov. David Ige pledged to keep the road to the summit of Mauna Kea opened and said Friday that he is “working to find ways to enable” the Thirty Meter Telescope project to proceed atop Mauna Kea “without putting workers, protestors and the general public at risk.”

Ige’s statement came hours after a protester Friday morning said he was struck by the side-view mirror of a TMT security truck — an incident that Hawaii County police are investigating.

Ige said that efforts to block the road to the 10,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea with boulders and two 4-foot Hawaiian altars, or ahu, “is not lawful or acceptable to the people of Hawaii. So let me be very direct: The roads belong to all the people of Hawaii and they will remain open. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure lawful access. We expect there to be more types of challenges, good and bad days, and we are in this for the long run. We value TMT and the contributions of science and technology to our society, and we continue our support of the project’s right to proceed.”

A spokeswoman for the TMT project said she would have no comment Friday.

“We are a patient people in Hawaii,” Ige said. “We listen to and understand differing points of view, and we respect the many cultures of this land, especially that of the host culture. I have done my very best to follow this process in the case of Mauna Kea and set forth a way forward that I believe is reasonable.”

Officers on Wednesday arrested a dozen protesters who successfully blocked the resumption of work on the $1.4 billion telescope.

“We hoped we would not have to arrest people but were prepared to do so, and we did when they blocked the roadway,” Ige said. “We also saw, in what amounts to an act of vandalism, the roadway blocked with rocks and boulders. We deployed to remove the rocks and boulders, but the protesters wisely chose to remove them themselves.

Earlier Friday, a protester opposed to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea apparently was clipped by a TMT security truck Friday morning on the gravel road leading up to the summit, but appeared uninjured.

Fellow protester Kahookahi Kanuha called Hilo police before 6 a.m. to report that “Mikey” Kalaemano Kealoha Makuakane Kahilihiwa Kaina had been hit by a Toyota Tacoma security truck traveling up the mountain “at a very fast pace and hit him on the side with a mirror.”

“I rolled off of the back of the truck and fell down,” Kaina said as Kanuha talked to police dispatchers.  

The protestor who reported being hit by a side-view mirror was driven down the mountain by a ranger from the Office of Mauna Kea Management, said University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl. The ranger told the protester to call 911, Meisenzahl said.

Cindy McMillan, spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige, said ranger Scotty Paiva rushed to the scene and drove the protester to the visitor center. Paiva reported that the protestor appeared to be uninjured after he was hit by a TMT security truck, McMillan said. 

Construction of the $1.4 billion telescope remained stalled Friday and two 4-foot Hawaiian altars, or ahu, remained on the road leading up to the 10,000-foot summit, Meisenzahl said.

“The road is still closed only to essential traffic,” he said. “Construction remains halted until further notice.”

The Mauna Kea visitor center at the 9,200-foot level also remained closed Friday.

Police and state Department of Land and Natural Resources officers arrested a dozen protesters Wednesday as opponents of the telescope construction, who call themselves protectors, blocked a convoy of construction vehicles from reaching the summit.

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