MAUNA KEA >> Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope who are camped at the Mauna Kea Access Road are predicting law enforcement will move in as early as Monday to clear the road and the nearby encampment, but Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said today he is “pretty damn sure” there is no such action planned that soon.
In a call for reinforcements or kahea issued Friday night and shared thousands of times on social media, the protesters said they have heard from “multiple sources” that the clearing operation may begin as early as predawn Monday morning, and the Daniel K. Inouye Highway also known as Saddle Road may be closed as early as Sunday.
Law enforcement is expected to meet with state and county officials Sunday to plan the operation, according to the bulletin on the Facebook page called Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu Maunakea, which is often used distribute communications for the activists.
The bulletin urges people who respond to the summons to bring gear for camping under harsh conditions and to be committed to the non-violent protest tactics known as kapu aloha.
However, Kim said in an interview today he had in-depth discussions about Mauna Kea Thursday and Friday in connection with the clearing of an illegal structure near the protest camp, and no one said a word about such an operation.
“If I had money to bet, I’d bet anything I had that it won’t happen,” Kim said. “I don’t know how these rumors start. I hope you don’t call me Monday and say ‘You were wrong,’ but I don’t know anything about it. I have no idea of anything developing, really.”
He added: “I doubt anything like that would happen without me knowing about it. I mean, that would be our police.”
State Attorney General Clare Connors declined to discuss operational details of state efforts to cope with the protests — which has been the policy of state and county law enforcement officials — but suggested talk of an impending sweep may have grown out of heightened tensions after the state tore down an illegal structure near the protest camp Friday.
The activists last week predicted the Hawaii National Guard and law enforcement agencies from outside the state would be used to clear the road and the protester encampments, but did not give a specific time frame.
The access road has been closed since July 15, and 38 people were arrested 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 the construction of the telescope would be a desecration.