HILO >> Hawaii County police officers deployed in the area around the Mauna Kea protest camp have issued 4,632 citations during a stepped-up enforcement program on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway during the past eight weeks, police announced Thursday.
The tickets were issued for an array of traffic and other offenses. The highway runs through the site of the protests against the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, and police say the enforcement effort is intended to enhance motorists’ and pedestrians’ safety.
Police deployed in the area have also arrested 46 people for a variety of offenses, but say they don’t know how many of the people they ticketed or arrested have any ties to the protests. The activists say most of those who were stopped and cited were passing motorists or tourists with no connection to the protest camp.
Hawaii County police announced last week they have spent nearly $4.2 million on overtime, fringe benefits and other costs so far in connection with the non-violent protests against the TMT, which are now in their 13th week. That averages out to more than $50,000 per day, money the county is trying to recoup from the state.
Thousands of opponents of the telescope project have gathered around the intersection of the highway and Mauna Kea Access Road at times, and the access road has been closed since July 15. The protesters are blocking the access road in an effort to prevent construction of the TMT, and on July 17 police arrested 39 people for obstructing the road.
Hawaii island Police Chief Paul Ferreira has said the county scaled back considerably on the number of officers deployed near the protest site at the base of the access road since the peak of the protest activity in mid-July.
Overall, state and county officials say they have spent more than $9 million coping with the blockade and protests. That includes $1.6 million spent on Hawaii National Guard troops who were called up to help move equipment to the summit area, and $1.3 million spent by the state Attorney General’s office.