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Protesters defy emergency rule, remain on Mauna Kea

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  • Krystle Marcellus /
    New rules set up by the University of Hawaii’s Office of Mauna Kea Management prohibit vehicles lacking four-wheel drive above Halepohaku. The timing of the new rules was met with contention by some protesters

Protesters opposed to building a giant telescope atop Mauna Kea have remained on the mountain around-the-clock despite an emergence rule aimed at getting them to stop camping there.

The state’s land board approved the emergency rule after a heated July 10 public meeting that stretched late into the night. State officials argued it was necessary to take swift, emergency action because people camping on the mountain were creating dangerous conditions.

The rule prohibits being within a mile of the Mauna Kea access road between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., unless in a moving vehicle. The rule also prohibits at all times sleeping bags, camping stoves, tens and propane burners on the mountain.

As of Tuesday, there have been no arrests or citations for violating the rule even though protesters openly defy it in an attempt to prevent construction from resuming.

Since the rule went into effect, signs have been posted and informational fliers are being distributed to ensure people understand the rule, said state attorney general spokesman Joshua Wisch. Enforcement can happen any time during the four months the emergency rule is in effect, he said.

Telescope protesters say the lack of enforcement indicates the rule is unnecessary. They say it was created to facilitate construction.

“In their rush to get us off the mountain, they haven’t done it properly,” Lanakila Mangauil, a protest leader, said of creating the rule. He said a group of about 10 people continue sleeping under a large tent or in vehicles on the mountain.

“With the passage of these rules it’s obvious that the rule was created for the one purpose of favoring development only,” said Henry Noa, who is part of a sovereignty movement called Lawful Hawaiian Government. “It was to give one side the upper hand.”

The nonprofit company building the Thirty Meter Telescope hasn’t indicated when there will be another attempt to resume construction. Workers weren’t able reach the site during two previous attempts when they were blocked by hundreds of protesters, including dozens who were arrested.

University of Hawaii law school professor Williamson Chang has filed a petition with the Department of Land and Natural Resources seeking to repeal the rule, arguing it prevents telescope opponents from legally exercising their rights to peacefully protest.

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