TMT issues trespass notices, verbally warns protesters

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A leader in the fight to stop the Thirty Meter Telescope from being built atop Mauna Kea was served with a trespass notice Monday by security guards stationed at the construction site.

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A leader in the fight to stop the Thirty Meter Telescope from being built atop Mauna Kea was served with a trespass notice Monday by security guards stationed at the construction site.

Kahookahi Kanuha said he and several other protesters, some of whom are Native Hawaiians who call themselves protectors of the mountain they consider sacred, make routine trips, at least once a week, from their camp outside the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station to the TMT project site near the summit to pule and chant.

“As native tenants of these lands, as hoa‘aina, we have rights to them,” he said. “We go up there for religious purposes, to pray, so that all of this hewa, all of this wrongdoing, that is being committed upon the mountain can hopefully be washed clean.”

The trespass notice from Private Security Group Inc., the company contracted by TMT, was issued at 12:04 p.m. and reads: “You are hereby informed that your presence is no longer desired upon the property known as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) construction site which has been defined by a marked wire fence with ‘No Trespassing’ signs posted along its perimeter.”

If Kanuha returns to the site within one year, he might be subject to arrest and prosecuted for trespass, according to the notice.

Charles Long, president and CEO of Private Security Group, declined to comment and suggested the newspaper contact TMT.

TMT spokesman Gordon Squires said in a statement that while two trespassing notices were issued Monday, the observatory has been verbally warning trespassers and attempting to serve written notices for quite some time.

“It is often challenging for our security personnel to get to the trespassers to deliver the notices before they withdraw from the site,” he said. “To ensure the health and safety of all visitors to the TMT site, we will continue to issue trespassing notices as appropriate.”

Despite his written warning, Kanuha said he has every intention of returning.

“We don’t cause any harm to anything,” he said. “We simply go there to pray, and then we leave.”

On Tuesday, Kanuha posted a photo on his Facebook page showing his own notice of trespass that informs its future recipient their presence “is not, and never has been, desired upon” Mauna Kea.

Stamped with the Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Hawaii, the notice states the Hawaiian Kingdom currently is under an illegal and prolonged occupation by the United States, and therefore the general lease of the land to the University of Hawaii and sublease to TMT are “null and void.”

“If they harass me again, I will serve my notice,” Kanuha said.

Construction of the $1.4 billion TMT has been at a standstill since late March, when protesters began blocking construction workers from making their way to the summit. On April 2, 31 protesters were arrested.

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Reporter Tom Callis contributed to this article.

Email Chris D’Angelo at cdangelo@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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