Officials respond to the removal of structure, Hawaiian flag at Puu Huluhulu

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Two men were arrested after multiple law enforcement agencies dismantled an illegal structure on Mauna Kea Friday morning.

The kiai, or protectors, said it was built to be a library for kids.

“We actually had 200 kids coming up tomorrow to come and see the building,” said Ehitu Keeling. “Now, they just came in and bulldozed it down.”

“They like to use the excuse that TMT is doing stuff like educational purposes for the kids but yet where is it? It’s nowhere. But here we are building a library over here, we had people donating books,” Keeling said.

 He said it took three days to build the library.

“[The State is] saying it was a structure home with no running water, pipes nothing, but it was just a library,” he said.  

But the State of Hawaii said the structure is unpermitted and presents potential health, safety, and environmental concerns.

“We thought this structure would be a risk to safety because of its location, because of its size and we felt we needed to take action to remove it,” Gov. David Ige said.

Hawaii county mayor Harry Kim agreed that the structure had to come down.

“I notified Department of Hawaiian Home Lands that this is a violation of the building code laws. No permit has been received from anyone on this. You are instructed that this is an illegal structure, you’re instructed to cease,” Mayor Kim said.

State and county law enforcement agencies arrived around 9:30 a.m. Friday to remove the wooden building.

“About 20 workers and four pieces of heavy equipment to ensure we can be as efficient as possible in the removal of the structure,” said Ed Sniffen, Department of Transportation Deputy Director.

Two flags were removed in the process, one was cut in half with a saw.

“All the windows were blacked out, covered and there was no way for our law enforcement to see inside the building to see if anyone was there or if it was safe to take down,” Sniffen said.

But the kiai believe there were other ways it could have been removed.

“Their excuse was that we nailed it to the door, well I’m pretty sure everyone knows how to use a hammer and remove a nail,” Keeling said.

He said they could have also used a saw to cut through the structure to see inside as well instead of desecrating the flag.

Attorney General Clare Connors said the flag was nailed to barricade that was placed on the structure.

“Those barricades were new, they were put in place overnight, they blocked the windows, they blocked the door,” she said.

“There was no way to safely remove it than to tear it and that’s what happened,” she said. “But it was not purposeful it was the only option.”

“There was no intent to desecrate the flag, the first flag was in a position where there was no option but to cut through the flag to get into the facility so they could do the proper safety checks,” Connors said.

“To me, it’s a sign of disrespect and literally like they don’t care and it hurts,” Keeling said.

Mayor Kim questioned why the flag was there in the first place

The structure was removed by noon.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs releasing the following statement:

“State law enforcement’s swift dismantling today of a small wooden structure built by protectors earlier this week brings into sharp focus the longstanding and particularly abhorrent double standard the state uses to enforce land use laws against Native Hawaiians as opposed to others.

Law enforcement removed the small hale, which was located on lands controlled by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands at the base of Maunakea, because it was an unpermitted structure. Yet the state has a long history of expressly allowing unpermitted and unauthorized astronomy structures that were far larger and located in far more environmentally- and culturally-sensitive areas of the mountain.

Examples include:

The first three telescopes built on the summit of Maunakea failed to apply for a conservation district use permit and therefore were unpermitted for at least six years.

In 1976, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources discovered an additional unauthorized structure. While the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) approved an $85,000 fine against the building contractor, that fine appears to have never been collected.

In 1982, BLNR approved the Caltech telescope permit with an explicit requirement that no further astronomy development occur until the University of Hawaii completed a new master plan. Two months later, BLNR approved a new telescope before the master plan was completed, thereby endorsing a violation of the Caltech permit.

In 1997, BLNR approved four after-the-fact subleases for telescopes already built or in the process of being built on the summit.

This selective enforcement re-enforces the State Auditor’s finding in 1998 that the state and the University of Hawaiʻi manage Maunakea for astronomy at the expense of everything and everyone else. Moreover, the particularly offensive way todayʻs selective enforcement was carried out, which included the wholly unnecessary sawing of a Hawaiian flag, is deeply troubling, and further adds to the trauma of the Native Hawaiian people and could have escalated an already tense situation.”

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