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Thirty Meter Telescope protesters block H-1 traffic for second day

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Video by Mark Ladao and DLNR / mladao@staradvertiser.com
Thirty Meter Telescope opponents atop Mauna Kea Thursday criticized Gov. David Ige's emergency proclamation.
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Traffic headed westbound on the H-1 freeway is seen backed up from the King Street overpass on Wednesday reportedly due to protesters against the Thirty Meter Telescope. The coordinated effort happened again this afternoon.

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Protesters gathered, Thursday, July 18, 2019, for day four of demonstrations at the base of Mauna Kea.

UPDATE: 4 p.m.

A coordinated effort presumably by Thirty Meter Telescope protesters blocked traffic on Hawaii’s busiest freeway this afternoon for the second day in a row.

Vehicles traveling slowly side by side on the H-1 freeway near the Ward Avenue off-ramp around 3:12 p.m. were met by police cars that were seen chasing the offending vehicles.

A similar slow-down on the H-1 near Manoa was initiated by protesters Wednesday.

On Hawaii island, there were an estimated 600 people around the intersection of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Mauna Kea Access Road, state officials said. No arrests or injuries were reported today.

3 p.m.

MAUNA KEA >> The first major move after Gov. David Ige’s Wednesday emergency proclamation was to close Mauna Kea to the public, including foot traffic.

“The mountain is closed, yes, to public access,” said Dan Dennison, spokesperson for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

He responded to questions during a 2 p.m. press conference today regarding access to Mauna Kea by saying there no longer is any.

“That’s not the case now. That was then, this is now, because of the emergency proclamation and the additional authority that law enforcement has. They can restrict access to anyone and everyone including practitioners,” he said. “We respect Native Hawaiian practitioners’ efforts to do that, but right now for the safety and security of everyone, that’s not going to happen.”

Dennison also said Ige’s proclamation could mean the involvement of a “limited number of National Guard” personnel to assist law enforcement officers.

When Ige announced the emergency proclamation, he said the top priority, which Dennison reiterated today, was everyone’s safety.

He said Saddle Road was closed Wednesday because of the cars that had blocked it off, creating a safety hazard.

He said the consequences of attempting to walk down Mauna Kea Access Road would be up to law enforcement officers.

Dennison also said law enforcement officers were told to stand down Wednesday because of the size of the crowd of protesters, emphasizing the goal was to de-escalate the situation.

Dennison said there are no intentions to use violent physical force against peaceful protesters.

12:35 p.m.

MAUNA KEA >> At 12:06 p.m., the kupuna tent blocking Mauna Kea Access Road was moved off the street for the first time today, allowing a water truck to get to the summit.

Some weren’t aware of an agreement to let any vehicles through, although there didn’t appear to be any arguments among protesters about it.

A few DLNR/DOCARE officers accompanied the truck.

12:30 p.m.

MAUNA KEA >> The number of people who were arrested on Mauna Kea during a sit-in on Wednesday is actually 34, according to a state spokesman. State officials initially announced 33 were arrested and immediately released.

Dan Dennison, spokesman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, also said law enforcement would use the authority granted by an emergency proclamation signed by Gov. David Ige Wednesday to “secure the mountain,” which includes a prohibition on vehicle and foot traffic.

The people who were arrested were cited for obstructing government operations, a misdemeanor offense, included 33 kupuna or Hawaiian elders and one caregiver, Dennison said. All were cited and released, and are scheduled to appear in Hilo District Court on Sept. 20.

“They were arrested because they were blocking the roadway,” Dennison said. “Law enforcement asked them to leave multiple times. They were informed that they would be arrested if they did not leave. They did not, and they were arrested. It was done so very respectfully.”

Dennison said that “law enforcement continues to plan and prepare for movement of equipment up the mountain. Safety continues to be our highest priority.”

11:10 a.m.

MAUNA KEA >> Thirty Meter Telescope opponents on Mauna Kea this morning criticized Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation issued in reaction to their protest.

About 10 kupuna (elders) chastised Ige who issued his proclamation after Wednesday’s protest closed Mauna Kea Access Road and Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

“Our illustrious governor decided to abuse his powers … This is not a volcano that is erupting or some kind of protest that is out of control, this is about aloha, yet he has signed that proclamation,” said Walter Ritte, a Native Hawaiian activist who was among the 33 arrested Wednesday.

Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, another kupuna at Mauna Kea, echoed Ritte’s sentiment at this morning’s news conference.

“We’re not violent protesters or are causing a statewide emergency. I don’t understand, to me it just an uninformed and illegal reaction,” she said. ” Maybe somebody is feeding him bad information. But Gov. Ige, if you’re listening, maybe it’s time for you to come up here and witness yourself.”

While not much has happened, and it’s still uncertain what will happen, Wong-Wilson said the protesters are still on “high-alert.”

Ige said Wednesday that the proclamation was needed to give law enforcement broader powers to ensure the health and safety of the public.

7:50 a.m.

MAUNA KEA >>The protesters are emphasizing the use of non-violent protest.

“We don’t wanna do anything that creates the idea that we’re looking for any fighting,” one organizer said to the crowd.

Some expect more law enforcement to arrive around 8 a.m.


MAUNA KEA >> Hundreds of protesters have set up on Mauna Kea Access Road today for what is supposed to be the fourth day of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, at the same place they were Wednesday.

At 7:20 a.m., protest organizers aren’t sure what to expect, but during a morning meeting they talked to protesters about what to do if they are willing to get arrested and what to do if they aren’t.

The crowd seems to be in a good mood, sometimes laughing at organizers’ jokes. About a dozen law enforcement vehicles have been set up behind protesters’ tents for hours but have not acted. None have appeared to arrive since.

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