UPDATE: Ige declares emergency over TMT protests

  • Police in riot gear leave the Maunakea Access Road after police negotiated with protesters to remove about a dozen cars that were blocking the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.
  • Protesters are locked arm-in-arm on the Maunakea Access Road.
  • Police in riot gear form a line along the Maunakea Access Road.
  • Police in riot gear stand in front of a wall of TMT protesters.
  • TMT protesters being arrested this morning on Maunakea.
  • A kupuna prepares to be arrested this morning on the Maunakea Access Road.
  • Kupuna Abel Lui is escorted away from the protest site.

UPDATED 3:56 p.m.

Gov. David Ige said he has issued an emergency proclamation due to the continued protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.

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He said the protesters continue to break the law and are putting the health and safety of the public in jeopardy.

Ige said the proclamation gives police the ability to close off more areas.

Meanwhile, officials say 33 people were arrested in today’s protest on the Maunakea Access Road.

UPDATED 2: 51 p.m.

Police in riot gear have withdrawn from the access road after protesters removed about a dozen cars that were blocking the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

The retreat ended — at least for now — a tense four-hour standoff between law enforcement and the protesters.

The highway has been reopened, according to police.

UPDATED 2:23 p.m.

About a dozen protester vehicles are blocking part of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway at the base of the Maunakea Access Road.

Kahookahi Kanuha, one of the protest leaders, told the crowd of protesters that he and other have been negotiating with police. Police offered to back off for now if protesters remove the cars that are blocking the highway.

“I don’t see how moving those cars can hurt us,” he told the crowd. “I do see how not moving them can hurt us.”

Kanuha said police gave no guarantee that if they pull back, they wouldn’t return today, so protesters will be staying on the access road.

UPDATED 1:42 p.m.

Police are warning protesters that if they continue blocking the access road, they will be arrested.

Between the police and the remaining kupuna are multiple lines of protesters linked arm-in-arm. A similar human chain stands behind the kupuna, between the elders and a line of officers who descended to the scene from their checkpoint at the cattle guard higher up the road.

Hundreds of other protesters not on the road are standing on the sides of the road, many of them filming the developments on their phones.

Protest leaders have been leading the protesters in songs and chants, while others have shouted pleas at the officers to relent or change sides.

Despite the tension, some protesters continue to distribute water and food among the crowd. However, some also are distributing ear plugs, possibly in anticipation of a “sound-based weapon,” called LRAD, some fear might be deployed.

The officers have not drawn their weapons or donned their helmets, although they are visibly armed with batons and pepper spray.

The Daniel K. Inouye Highway remains closed on the west side off Mamalahoa Highway at mile marker 42, and on the east side at mile marker 11 above Kaumana Drive in Hilo.

A strip of road spikes also has reportedly been placed across the road by law enforcement just past the Hilo-side roadblock.

UPDATED: 11: 47 a.m.

Police have closed the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, Route 200, near the Maunakea Access Road due to protesters amassing on the road.

The closure indefinite for the safety of protesters and motorist alike, police said.

Police also addressed the crowd of protesters and onlookers: “This is a law enforcement operation. As long as you stay off the road and do not interfere, we will take no action”

UPDATED 11:35 a.m.

Several dozen Honolulu police officers, equipped with riot gear and batons, have lined the access road.

Protesters have formed a human chain in front of the remaining kupuna who are waiting to be arrested. Most if not all protesters are singing in unison.

News media including the Tribune-Herald have been moved from the road as officers approach.

Earlier, a DLNR spokesman said both the state and the governor are willing to work as long as necessary to clear the access road for construction equipment.

UPDATED 10:16 a.m.

About two dozen protesters have now been arrested and removed from the protest area in vans.

A DLNR spokesman told the Tribune-Herald most were arrested for obstructing a government operation.

The arrests are proceeding slowly. Some kupuna were escorted by officers one by one at their own pace. Others prostrated themselves on the pavement and had to be carried out. A couple were pushed out in wheelchairs.

Throughout the process, protest leader Pua Case has reminded the other protesters watching the arrests to maintain their silence.

She was not entirely successful; the crowd occasionally broke into scattered chants and song, while some protesters sobbed loudly before being comforted by others.

UPDATED 8:57 a.m.

About a dozen large trucks carrying construction equipment have left a staging area in Waikoloa, headed for Maunakea.

Arrests are continuing on the access road, and the first vans containing arrested kupuna are leaving the area.

PREVIOUSLY

Police have begun arresting a group of kupuna, or elders, this morning who were blocking the Maunakea Access Road to protest the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

About a half-dozen have been arrested so far, and another two dozen are preparing to be arrested.

The kupuna were seated on the road in folding chairs under tents or tarps, with family and supporters surrounding them.

The arrests are proceeding slowly, with two to three law enforcement officers involved in each arrest.

Hundreds of other protesters nearby are largely quiet. Some are weeping, and chants are made when each elder is brought to nearby police vans.

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About 300 cars are lining the Daniel K. Highway near the protesters’ camp across from the access road, and police presence appears larger than Tuesday.

Many protesters arrived earlier than usual today, sparked by rumors Tuesday night that police would close the highway at 6 a.m.

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