“They cannot block access for those of us that go up to pray..We have our rights to access that lands, to pray, to gather, to worship. Whatever we need to do as cultural practitioners is protected under the Hawaii State Constitution,” Healani Sonoda-Pale said.
Sonoda-Pale and several others opposed to the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope stood peacefully inside the governor’s office in protest.
They gathered after the announcement was made that construction on the project will begin Monday, July 15th.
We have followed a tenure process to get to this point and the day for construction to begin has arrived,” Governor David Ige said.
He went on to explain that they their main priority from this point forward is everyone’s safety.
Ed Sniffen, Deputy Director of Highways for the Hawaii Department of Transportation said that they will close roads to get equipment up the mountain safely and prevent any accidents.
But those road closures also mean limited access to Mauna Kea.
“Right now we’re talking about starting at 7 o’clock on the 15th. That’s going to be 24/7 until we get the equipment up the hill…During the shutdown the road will be shut down for everyone. There will be restricted access on the roadway itself,” Sniffen said.
Motorists are also advised of the potential for intermittent traffic control on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway due to the transport of heavy machinery including bull dozers, rollers, and rock crushers.
Lane shifts may be necessary near the intersection with Mauna Kea Access Road to ensure safety. Travel will be maintained in both directions on the highway.
Hawaii county police, DOCARE, and several other agencies will be deployed to handle security.
“When the road is closed and the closures take place we just are going to ask everyone to follow the rules. It’s important to note that the DHHL property for example is private, that’s not public land,” Clare Connors, Hawaii Attorney General said.
Connors added that they don’t have an area designated for those opposed to TMT to safely protest.
Sonoda-Pale said they plan to continue to protect the Mauna.
“All I know is that the protectors are peaceful and they are going to stay in kapu aloha.”
Connors said they have been coordinating operations between multiple agencies including the prosecutors office on Hawaii island in the event that any arrests are made.
Given the man-power being put in motion for the start of construction, KHON asked how much it the additional security would cost taxpayers.
“We are keeping close track of all the expenses that are related to this project, but in truth the amount of money that gets expended are going to be responsive to the type of activity that occurs on the mountain,” Connors explained.
Questions about the possible use of a long range acoustic device or LRAD recently acquired by DLNR were also addressed. LRAD have been sued for crowd control purposes in other protests across the country.
Ige said there was misinformation about the LRAD. He explained that the version of the device they purchased was specifically to assist with communication in the event of a natural disaster and that it was not a weapon.
“If we have a need to communicate and reach a group of people and we believe that some broadcast device would help us, we plan to use it,” Ige said.
Those opposed to the use of the LRAD have said it can be harmful.
Hawaii National Guard will also be deployed to the Big Island but Ige said they will not be armed.
“We are providing National Guard supports in the activity. They have a very specific support role. They will be providing transportation of personnel and supplies as requested. They also have been asked to support road closures and any other activities that may be necessary,” Ige explained.
Access to specific hunting areas in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve will also be closed.
“For the safety of the public and all personnel we will be closing hunting in units A, K and G in the Mauna Kea Forest reserve area on a temporary basis beginning July 15. Presence in those units with methods such as fire arms or bows will be prohibited,” Suzanne Case, Board of Land and Natural Resources chair, said.