Gov. David Ige today announced an emergency proclamation giving law enforcement authority to close off more areas of Mauna Kea to ensure the successful delivery of work vehicles, equipment and work crews to the summit for construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope.
The proclamation gives police more flexibility and power to close roads and areas across most of the mountain.
“It’s very clear we need to ensure access in a better way,” he said at an afternoon news conference at his office in the State Capitol.
Ige said the protesters are illegally occupying Mauna Kea Access Road and creating a dangerous situation for the traveling public on Saddle Road.
“I’ve encouraged law enforcement to be respectful but to enforce the law,” he said.
Watch the governor’s news conference here.
UPDATE 3:20 p.m.
MAUNA KEA >> A total of 33 protesters were arrested this morning during a sit-in on the Mauna Kea Access Road, according to a state spokesman.
All of those arrested protesters are kupuna (Hawaiian elders) and will face a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of government operations, the spokesman said.
They were cited and immediately released, said a Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman.
Three or four people were transported in ambulances for minor health problems, the spokesman said.
Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope said the Daniel K. Inouye Highway was reopened today and police pulled back from the protest site after a deal was brokered with to remove vehicles that had been parked or abandoned on the highway.
Police closed the highway this morning but reopened it at about 2:45 p.m. after the last vehicles were removed.
Some of the half dozen cars involved in blocking the highway were towed, but others were moved by their owners, according to Ed Sniffen, deputy director for state highways.
More than 50 police officers then pulled back from an hours-long confrontation with the protesters on Mauna Kea Access Road, causing the activists to erupt in cheers.
The protest leaders said they do not know who was behind the tactic of abandoning cars on the roadway.
MAUNA KEA >> With the Daniel K. Inouye Highway still closed, a lowboy trailer hauling two rolling machines used for road paving turned around and headed back to Hilo at 1:45 p.m.
A short while later the police presence on the access road was reduced, although about two dozen law enforcement officers remained on the scene.
The crowd quieted, but rows of seated demonstrators continued to block the access road.
At 2:15 p.m., the protesters erupted in cheering and chanting as the last rows of enforcement officers with riot gear departed from their positions between the activists and the highway.
The nearly three-hour standoff between the police and protesters appears to be over at the moment.
Oahu protesters in solidarity with the Thirty Meter Telescope opponents on Mauna Kea are slowing westbound lanes of H-1 freeway in the University area.
Police are reporting traffic backing up on H-1 from the Punahou overpass to well beyond University Avenue.
MAUNA KEA >> On the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, at least two motorists parked their cars to block traffic from Kona near the access road, but police quickly towed one.
The other car belonged to Kohala resident Mariah Barnett, 24, who said she did it out of love for the mountain.
“I’m really happy to be here,” she said, speaking through her half-open car window as police looked on. She refused to get out of the car.
“Ride or die, TMT is not gonna happen,” she said, adding, “I guess I should say, until the last aloha aina, the last one.”
Police told her they would tow her car with her in it, but Barnett said she does not believe they can legally do so.
Onlookers said she had been blocking the west bound lane of the highway for close to an hour.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs condemned the arrests on Mauna Kea, saying in a news release: “The Native Hawaiian community weeps today. To see some of our most respected kupuna, advocates and ohana get arrested for voicing the same concerns our community has expressed for decades over the state’s mismanagement of Maunakea brings a kaumaha (grief) to our hearts that is unbearable. Regardless of your position on TMT, we must all agree with Gov. Ige’s 2015 statement that the state has ‘failed’ Maunakea.
“OHA will continue to proceed with our lawsuit against the state and UH for their mismanagement of Maunakea. We continue to call for the state and UH to be held accountable as fiduciaries for our trust resources, and we demand that a new management structure is immediately installed for Maunakea.”
Maui trustee Carmen Hulu Lindsey was among those arrested today. Kauai Trustee Dan Ahuna was also seen on the mountain.
MAUNA KEA >> A police team with a camera walked around the circle of about 300 protesters, with an officer recording the faces in a crowd that surrounded about 50 police officers standing with their backs to one another,
The protesters mostly refrained from taunting the officers, and the crowd would fall nearly silent each time a chant or a song ended.
MAUNA KEA >> The orderly and mostly cordial process of arresting elderly protesters abruptly came to a halt shortly after 11:15 a.m. when a piece of heavy construction equipment appeared on a flatbed on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.
Hundreds of protestors who had been observing the kupuna arrests jumped to their feet, linked arms and formed into ranks on each side of the tents where the kupuna were sitting, smack in the middle of the Mauna Kea Access Road.
The protesters sang, prayed and chanted, and called for Hawaiians on the police force to “walk away.”
A police officer replied with a message over a bullhorn advising the protesters that “this is a police operation.”
The officer with the megaphone told the activists they would not be arrested if they stay off the road, but no one moved.
MAUNA KEA >> Authorities are giving the elderly Mauna Kea protesters who are arrested today the option of being cited and released from a facility near the demonstrations, and two or more protesters have apparently already returned to the protest, according to a state spokesman.
State Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison said he cannot say how many people were arrested today or what the charges might be.
Dennison also did not know how law enforcement might handle the possibility where they are faced with arresting the same person twice.
He said people who were arrested and chose not to be cited were taken to a cellblock in Hilo.
“Law enforcement was attempting to only arrest or cite the people who the leaders identified as kupuna,” he said.
Three people were taken from the protest site on Mauna Kea Access Road in ambulances for what Dennison said appeared to be minor medical problems.
When asked how long the state is prepared to continue the process of arresting non-violent protesters, he replied that “I don’t think we’re gonna call it off.”
“As Gov. Ige said, we are committed to upholding the law of the state of Hawaii and making this situation safe and secure, and also respect the stewardship of the mountain.”
“It was pretty emotional quite frankly because some of the people who were arrested were actually related to some of the officers,” he said. “That was the case in several cases, so it was a tough situation for everyone.”
He praised the respect and professionalism of state enforcement officers who made the arrests, and also said the protesters “were absolutely respectful.”
MAUNA KEA >>Hawaii County police have closed Daniel K. Inouye Highway due to protesters gathering on the roadway en masse.
The closure is indefinite “for the safety of protesters and motorists alike” police said in an alert.
MAUNA KEA >> The first vanload of arrestees departed for Hilo, and the protesters circulated trays of fruit and croissants under their tents while they waited.
“I would implore on the powers to be that perhaps after they’re removed that they not be prosecuted,” said Kaleikoa Kaeo. “They should not be prosecuted as criminals at all. They should be looked at as heroes. They show the people of Hawaii and the world how we should behave in this instance.”
“We are here on the slopes of Mauna Kea doing what is necessary to protect our land, our sacred space, and this is what it comes for Hawaiians — that we have to get our kupuna arrested for the world to see that we have a voice, that we have a face, that we exist as a people,” said protest organizer Andre Perez.
Arrests resumed at 8:54 a.m. and several members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I in black suits and capes stood and walked to a waiting van.
The arrests then paused again while a medic was summoned for Abel Lui, 76, a longtime Hawaii island activist who had intended to be arrested but began feeling ill.
At least 20 protesters have been arrested so far.
MAUNA KEA >> The protesters waited calmly to be arrested one at a time, with teams of officers stepping forward for each of them in turn.
After seven people had been taken away, the arrests paused for a time at about 8:15 a.m., with one organizer joking that it was time for a water break.
MAUNA KEA >> The next of the kupuna activists was carefully held under each arm by DLNR officers and led away, chanting.
“Thank you, Uncle Richard,” a woman called from the surrounding crowd as protest leaders and camera-wielding activists pressed forward.
A grey-haired “auntie” was pushed in her wheelchair to the waiting vans, and a man in the crowd called for “unity.”
Some members of the crowd were openly weeping, but the organizers thanked the protesters for remaining calm and demonstrating “Kapu aloha.”
MAUNA KEA >> The crowd began to clap and sing, with the kupuna rocking from side to the strains of Hawaii Aloha, and the first two kupuna lay on the ground.
Another nine officers and deputy sheriffs came forward with stretchers and carried the first protesters to the waiting vans at 7:56 a.m.
MAUNA KEA >> After some brief negotiations between protests leaders and DLNR personnel on Mauna Kea Access Road, several officers waded into the crowd to address kupuna, or elder protesters.
The kupuna were seated with family and supporters in four rows of folding chairs under tent shelters on the road.
At about 7:15 a.m. officers provided the elders a few minutes to use the restroom or make any final arrangements, and enforcement officers said they would return shortly for those who chose to be arrested.
Protest organizers then herded the crowd back on one side of the tent to make room for two police vans, and one organizer warned the artists to stay out of that space “unless you like take a ride.”
The kupuna chatted cheerfully with one another and with supporters while they waited.
At 7:45 a.m., organizers again pressed the crowd back to make way for about 30 enforcement offices on foot. Those officers took up positions in front of the kupuna and prepared to make arrests as activist Pua Case said a prayer.
MAUNA KEA >> Protest organizers instructed both the media and activists to shut down their live feeds as protest leader Pua Case briefed the crowd on the tactics the activists plan today.
Dozens of enforcement officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources watched the crowd from about 100 yards up the road toward the mountain, and a drone buzzed over and around the gathered protesters.
A spokesman from the state warned the media to stay off the road during police activities.
MAUNA KEA >> In a ceremony to start the day, members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I in black suits and capes crossed from the camp or puuhonua set up near the Mauna Kea Access Road to tell the protesters that “we stand behind you.”
MAUNA KEA >> Both police and protesters have bulked up their presence in anticipation of conflict on Mauna Kea this morning, with more than 300 cars lining the highway near the activists’ camp.
Hawaii County police had gathered near the Daniel K. Inouye Highway just above Hilo by 3:30 a.m., suggesting that rumors that the highway will be closed at 6 a.m. may be true.
Several hundred shivering protesters have gathered at tents set up on Mauna Kea Access Road to shelter the kupuna or elders of the protest, who say they are ready to be arrested rather than allow heavy equipment to pass. The state announced it would close Mauna Kea Access Road Monday morning, but it is the protesters who have taken control of the lower portion of the road so far this week.
As the sun began to break through the mist on the mountain at 6 a.m., about 300 activists chanted and sang to welcome a day they expect will feature the first arrests of this round of protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope.
The protesters consider the $1.4 billion TMT construction project be a desecration of sacred land. Astronomers say it will advance mankind’s understanding of the origins of the universe.
Star-Advertiser Tim Hurley and photographer Cindy Ellen Russell contributed to this report.