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No connection between National Guard training, TMT protests

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Civil disobedience training for more than 100 Hawaii National Guard troops during the weekend was unrelated to the ongoing unrest atop Mauna Kea because of the Thirty Meter Telescope, according to officials.

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Civil disobedience training for more than 100 Hawaii National Guard troops during the weekend was unrelated to the ongoing unrest atop Mauna Kea because of the Thirty Meter Telescope, according to officials.

“Would have happened regardless,” Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, wrote in an email, referring to the training. “Some people (are) trying to link the training with TMT, but there is no link.”

Regardless, protesters were quick to take to social media to voice disappointment with Gov. David Ige, who has not requested National Guard troops but said he would consider doing so if the need arose.

In a written response, Kealoha Pisciotta, a TMT opponent and one of the plaintiffs challenging the project in court, said she was “shocked and saddened” by Ige’s recent statements and that calling in troops only would escalate the conflict.

“If the governor truly wants a peaceful resolution to this situation, Gov. Ige can certainly wait to take any kind of further actions until the Supreme Court renders a decision, something that has been requested by the 61,110 people who have signed our petition to date … There is nothing that compels him to act at this point and, especially to do something as unnecessary and drastic as calling out the National Guard, except for maybe trying to accommodate the personal demands of TMT,” she said.

In separate emails Wednesday, Anthony and Jodi Leong, a spokeswoman for the governor, each confirmed there has been no request for National Guard troops or plans to activate the Guard at this time.

If the need does arise, however, Leong said Ige simply would have to ask the National Guard for help.

“No need to declare a state of emergency,” she said.

Anthony said such a request would be based on the needs and assessments of Ige’s cabinet and staff. For any natural disaster or incident, the governor, as commander in chief of the Hawaii National Guard, asks his state adjutant general for support.

A good example, Anthony said, was in the wake of Sept. 11, when former Gov. Ben Cayetano requested armed soldiers with Humvees to secure Honolulu International Airport.

“There were soldiers on station within two hours,” Anthony said. “Of course, that was highly unusual. In most cases of assistance to civil authorities, there is an extensive period of planning prior to employment of the Guard.”

And to date, there’s been no planning in response to the Mauna Kea protests, he said.

On Tuesday, Ige signed the new, 120-day emergency rule that prohibits camping and restricts public access on Mauna Kea. State officials say the rules, approved by the state Land Board last week, are necessary to address an “imminent peril” to public safety and natural resources resulting from ongoing protests.

Pisciotta said that at this point, all Ige has is a shovel and a gun.

“It seems he has thrown out all reason and abandoned his previous support of our constitutional right to peacefully protest against the further desecration of our sacred mountain by TMT’s construction crews,” she said.

There are approximately 1,800 soldiers in several units across the state who could be activated to assist with civil disturbances. The intent, Anthony said, is to have as many as possible trained for such a situation by Sept. 30. In June, the Hawaii National Guard conducted the largest disaster preparedness exercise in its history.

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“With that over, we can now engage our units that potentially have a civil disturbance mission to be trained up,” Anthony wrote. “Again, this is just another aspect of our state mission and is not an indicator of an imminent activation. Some media are reading way too much into this.”

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