HILO >> The activists blocking the Mauna Kea Access Road announced today “there has been word” that the state will use Hawaii National Guard troops and out-of-state law enforcement officers in the next 30 days to clear the way for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope to begin.
The road has been closed since July 15, and 38 people were arrested on July 17 as they blocked the roadway to prevent construction equipment from reaching the summit to begin site work for the $1.4 billion TMT project. Mauna Kea is considered sacred by some Hawaiians, and the protesters believe construction of the telescope would be a desecration.
In a news release posted on social media this morning, the protesters said they have also been notified that “law enforcement is considering using excessive force by way of chemical dispersants to punish and suppress our people standing in peace and protection of our mauna.”
The protesters said they plan to continue to oppose the telescope through non-violent means using the tactics of “kapu aloha,” and plan to reach out to international organizations such as the United Nations and the U.S. Human Rights Network to act as witnesses to the actions of the state.
“Unfortunately, the state of Hawaii has consistently aligned themselves with the investors of the Thirty Meter Telescope and other organizations that support it,” the activists’ news release said.
Krishna F. Jayaram, special assistant to Attorney General Clare E. Connors, said he would not comment on “operational details” in connection with the protests, but noted that “law enforcement has acted, and will continue to act, with professionalism, and the protesters’ assertion that state law enforcement is ‘considering using excessive force… to punish and suppress our people’ is utterly wrong.”
“Law enforcement is trained to use the appropriate amount of force to make sure that illegal conduct is stopped – in this case, it would be the weeks-long illegal blockage of Mauna Kea Access Road,” Jayaram said in an emailed statement.
Protest leaders did not immediately respond to inquiries about the source of the reports on planning by law enforcement agencies, or how reliable those reports might be. State and county law enforcement officials have never disclosed publicly how or when they plan to clear the road, but Gov. David Ige has said his administration will “enforce the law.”
The permitting process for the TMT including legal challenges took a decade, and construction is expected to take another 10 years. Supporters of the TMT say the project has the legal right to proceed with construction.