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Thirty Meter Telescope opponents pledge to hold steady as project’s construction nears

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Kealoha Pisciotta, of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, speaks at a news conference in front of the Department of Land and Natural Resources at the Kalanimoku Building at 1151 Punchbowl St. today. Opponents to the Thirty Meter Telescope pledge to continue to resist construction of the project on Mauna Kea.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In this photo provided by Pi’ikea Keawekane-Stafford, state and county officials remove Native Hawaiian structures from Mauna Kea, on June 20, just hours before state officials announced that construction of the long-delayed, controversial Thirty Meter Telescope will proceed on the mountain. Today, TMT opponents in Honolulu complained of what they said are heavy-handed state tactics against their protests.

The opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope this morning vowed to stand firm against the cutting-edge observatory expected to begin construction atop Mauna Kea in the next few months.

In a news conference at the Honolulu headquarters of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the “protectors” of Hawaii’s tallest mountain called on the state, the University of Hawaii and the TMT International Observatory board of governors to stand down on a $1.4 billion project which opponents say will desecrate sacred land.

With more than 50 people holding signs and flags of protest, speakers complained of heavy-handed state tactics in removing Native Hawaiian structures from the mountain, including two ahu, or altars, which were built on the TMT site in 2015.

“We’re also here to voice our concerns over what looks like the state’s gearing up for the excessive use of violence when the protectors of Mauna Kea have only shown aloha in this struggle,” said Candace Fujikane, board member of KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance.

“I want to ask the question here: Why is the state risking our lives and our safety for a private corporation?” Fujikane added. “They are looking at arresting us for a private corporation and we need to ask the question: Why?…Why?”

KAHEA attorney Lance Collins called on DLNR and Gov. David Ige to renounce the use of a recently purchased Long-Range Acoustic Device, also called a sound canon, which has been used for crowd control and confrontations with protesters at Standing Rock and elsewhere.

Collins said the device potentially violates state and federal laws and a United Nations’ convention against using military weapons for torture.

In a statement, the DLNR said the purchase from the LRAD Corp. was for a portable battery powered public address and hailing system and not a weapon.

“We understand and acknowledge the concerns raised regarding use of excessive force on nonviolent noncombatants. The LRAD system purchased by DOCARE is not intended to be used in that way,” the statement said.

The state last week issued a “notice to proceed” for construction of the 180-foot tall observatory on Mauna Kea following more than 10 years of planning, approvals and delay. TMT officials said construction would begin this summer after consulting with state officials on logistical concerns.

University officials have said they tried to work with foes regarding their plans to removal of the unpermitted structures on the mountain.

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