TMT protesters forge ahead in the fight to save Mauna Kea

Local News

Nearly 100 people gathered outside of the Kalanimoku Building on Punchbowl Street Friday morning to show their displeasure with how the State is handling the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea.

Members from several organizations opposing the $1.4 billion project were draped in Hawaiian flags, lei and kikepa. They came in solidarity, asking officials to respect their Hawaiian Culture, religion and promise not to use a new Long Range Acoustic Device or LRAD in future protests.

“Mauna Kea is the grand unifier…we have every intention to stand and protect our Mauna,” Kealoha Pisciotta said.

Pisciotta, who represents Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, expressed her disappointment with the State’s use of “heavy-handed enforcement” when dealing with their peaceful protests on Mauna Kea.

She and others were particularly disappointed in the Department of Land and Natural Resources acquisition of the LRAD, which TMT-opposers described as a ‘sound cannon’ recently purchased by the DLNR for $15,000.

Collins said the DLNR claimed the LRAD would be used as an announcement system.

“Its use by the military is to repel combatants from attacking naval ships. It is not an announcement system,” attorney Lance Collins said. Collins represents KAHEA, the Hawaiian Environmental Alliance.

“We also reject DOCARE’s claim that the use of LRAD is for natural disaster purposes. There is nothing in the DOCARE statute that gives them any power or authority over any natural disasters and there is no explanation for this long standing under funding of DLNR why they would spend $15,000 on a so called public announcement system that on the market only costs a $1,000 if public announcement systems is the purpose of having this LRAD.”

The LRAD works by emitting sound waves at such high decibels that it causes extreme pain and in some cases can cause permanent physical damage.

A DLNR spokesperson responded saying that the LRAD system they required a 100X unit, the smallest such system offered by LRAD.

In a statement the LRAD Corp said: “The system purchased by the Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources is used for public address and emergency notifications. LRAD is not a ‘sound cannon.’ The LRAD 100X system has been used by local law enforcement agencies to broadcast evacuation notices; for instance during wildfires in Colorado last year: https://www.lradx.com/video/lrad100x-used-broadcasst-fire-evacuation-notices-colorado/.”

The DLNR went on to further explain that they understood and “acknowledge the concerns raised regarding use of excessive force on nonviolent noncombatants. The LRAD system purchased by DOCARE is not intended to be used in that way. The LRAD is a legitimate useful tool for law enforcement in appropriate situations in compliance with law and standard use of force policy.”

Protesters also shared their frustration at the way their Hawaiian alters, or ahu were removed from two areas on Mauna Kea early Thursday, July 20, 2019.

Billy Freitas a practitioner of uhau humu pohaku (stone wall masonry) said the manner in which the ahu and hale were removed demonstrated the contempt State officials have for the Hawaiian culture and practices.

In a press conference Thursday, June 20, Governor David Ige, Attorney General Clare Connors, DLNR Director Suzanne Case and UH President David Lassner described the ahu that were removed from Mauna Kea as unauthorized structures.

Connors said, “the two structures as the summit were reviewed by the Hawaii Supreme Court as well as the board. They determined not to bear any traditional customary significance.”

Freitas disagreed.

“The ahu were done in traditional protocol…They were not political hale,” Freitas explained.

Kumu Vicky Holt Takamine said she was offended that state officials did not give the ahu and hale the rightful respect and reverence they deserved simply because they had not been there for hundreds of years.

“We would never think of taking down a Buddhist temple because it was built today. Ever. This is the way our temples are built, our ahu are built our religious practices are done. This is how we do it…We bring our pohaku. People are asked to bring pohaku of their own aina to give their mana to that place,” Takamine explained.

The pohaku and other elements collected when the ahu and hale were dismantled by DOCARE officials on June 20th were taken to the DOCARE facility in Hilo.

A new ahu was erected less than 24 hours after they were taken down at the same location one of the hale previously stood at 9,000 feet across from the Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center.

DLNR said they would monitor the situation and will take appropriate action as necessary.

What comes next in for the Mauna Kea protectors and the State is unknown. But the battle is far from over.

Officials have not released the date construction on the TMT will begin yet.

Pisciotta said when it happens they will be there.

“We have a right to make a choice to petition the government for redress, to protest. We have a right to assemble, every one does and my goodness we need to exercise those rights.”

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