After Gov. David Ige pledged to keep the road to the summit of Mauna Kea opened, protesters opposed to the Thirty Meter Telescope on Friday said they would remove two 4-foot Hawaiian altars, or ahu, that had helped blocked the road.
The 8-mile, gravel-and-paved road leading to the 13,796-foot summit of Hawaii island’s Mauna Kea remained closed indefinitely on Friday following Wednesday’s arrest of a dozen protesters, who placed boulders in the path of a convoy of construction vehicles and also erected two ahu.
Hawaii island police on Friday also were investigating a report that TMT protester "Mikey" Kalaemano Kealoha Makuakane Kahilihiwa Kaina had been hit by the sideview mirror of a TMT Toyota Tacoma security truck early Friday morning.
The Mauna Kea Visitor Center at the 9,200-foot level also remained closed indefinitely Friday.
It’s unclear when construction of the $1.4 billion project would resume. A TMT spokeswoman had no comment Friday.
Kahookahi Kanuha, one of the protesters, said a group was going up the hill to remove the two ahu.
Media were barred by Office of Mauna Kea Management rangers from observing the removal.
"There are two ahu that are kind of obstructing traffic, and it is believed to be a safety hazard and a public safety issue and the safety of everyone, regardless of where they stand on the issue is our top priority and so we are going to go ahead and move them to the side," Kanuha said. "We are here for the safety of everyone. The only difference between our interpretation of safety and their interpretation of safety is that we also take into consideration the mauna, the mountain. But we do not wish to cause any hazardous or any situation that could bring harm to anybody or unsafe conditions. So if those things pose a threat to that then we do have a responsibility to move them to the side."
In his statement, Ige said, "We are currently working to find ways to enable the TMT project to proceed safely without putting workers, protestors and the general public at risk."
Ige offered no details on how he planned to let the TMT construction continue.
"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."
Ige said efforts to block the road to the summit are "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."
In his statement, Ige said, "We are a patient people in Hawaii. 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."
Dan Nakaso reported from Honolulu, and Krystle Marcellus reported from Mauna Kea.