The governor is speaking out against attempts to block the road to Mauna Kea’s summit.
Rocks and rock walls were placed across the road this week in protest of the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
Gov. David Ige released the following statement Friday:
“We are a patient people in Hawaii. We listen to and understand differing points of view, and we respect the many cultures of this land, especially that of the host culture. I have done my very best to follow this process in the case of Mauna Kea and set forth a way forward that I believe is reasonable.
“We expected there to be a protest when construction resumed, and there was. We hoped we would not have to arrest people but were prepared to do so, and we did when they blocked the roadway. We also saw, in what amounts to an act of vandalism, the roadway blocked with rocks and boulders. We deployed to remove the rocks and boulders, but the protesters wisely chose to remove them themselves.
“And then we saw more attempts to control the road. That is not lawful or acceptable to the people of Hawaii. So let me be very direct: The roads belong to all the people of Hawaii and they will remain open. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure lawful access. We expect there to be more types of challenges, good and bad days, and we are in this for the long run. We value TMT and the contributions of science and technology to our society, and we continue our support of the project’s right to proceed.
“We are currently working to find ways to enable the TMT project to proceed safely without putting workers, protestors and the general public at risk.”
Protesters removed the boulders and rock walls at around noon Thursday and an agreement was reached between rangers and protesters to take down two ahu that were built at the construction site, UH officials confirmed. They began doing so Friday afternoon.
According to Mauna Kea’s self-proclaimed “protectors,” the rocks represented vessels of spirits of their kupuna.
“It wasn’t so much a decision as an automatic responsibility that we have to keep those physical manifestations of our kupuna safe by removing them from the road,” said Kamahana Kealoha, head facilitator with the Sacred Mauna Kea Hui.
The road will be assessed and likely remain closed through the weekend, officials said.