UPDATE: Ige meets with Kim, holds press conference in Hilo

  • The Maunakea protest, as seen from Pu'u Huluhulu behind the protesters' camp.
  • A flag blocks the Maunakea Access road this morning.

UPDATED 3:54 p.m.

During a press conference moments ago in Hilo, Gov. Ige said his No. 1 priority is public safety.

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He said he spent the day talking to Mayor Harry Kim and others about how to handle the TMT protests.

He said he is not planning to call up additional National Guard troops and reiterated those deployed would only handle support-related duties. He said the emergency proclamation will remain in effect for the safety of the public.

He said there has never been a discussion about using tear gas on protesters, which is among the rumors being spread via social media.

He also said that some protesters have violated rules agreed upon by both sides regarding the protesters’ camp at Pu‘u Huluhulu. He said law enforcement has reported the use of drugs and alcohol at the camp. But he said the state has no immediate plan to shut down the camp.

He said the state continues to have discussions “with all stakeholders” involved.

UPDATED 1:21 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has issued a statement urging Gov. Ige “to withdraw the emergency declaration, delay any new construction, and bring leaders together from both sides in the spirit of aloha to ho‘oponopono and determine the best path forward.”

“While the legal process has determined that TMT may proceed, there are spiritual and cultural issues that have not been addressed,” she said. “This is about something much greater than the TMT project — it has to do with longstanding history on Maunakea, broken promises, desecration of sacred land and disrespect for native culture.”

She said Maunakea is “so much more than a mountain. It’s a revered and sacred sanctuary connecting keiki and kupuna to the past, present and future, and where Native Hawaiians practice their customs and traditions.”

She said the “materialistic way” that developers and corporations are viewing Maunakea — ignoring the spiritual significance and relationship many Native Hawaiians have with the mountain — “is at the heart of the problem.”

“It is hypocritical that many TMT proponents speak of their own spiritual quest for knowledge and wisdom, while simultaneously closing their eyes to the spiritual inspiration and significance that Maunakea offers — not only to Native Hawaiians but to humanity at large.”

Gabbard said “it is wrong that state leaders have approved the development of a new telescope on a new site on the mountain, without first ensuring the timely removal of decommissioned facilities along with full restoration of those sites.”

Gabbard is a Democrat and presidential candidate. The Big Island is within her congressional district.

UPDATED 12:04 p.m.

Jason Redulla, chief of the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Unit for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, this morning refuted claims that the state has approved “the use of excessive force.”

There has been no order or direction approving the use of excessive force, he said.

Redulla said the rumor is “dangerous and it is absolutely false,” and there has been no action by law enforcement since the protest started to support the “outlandish” claims.

Earlier this morning in a Facebook post, Lt. Gov. Josh Green opposed the use of National Guard troops for the TMT protests on Maunakea.

“First and most important in my opinion, there must not be any violence on Maunakea,” he wrote. “That would cause irreparable damage to our state and people, culturally and spiritually.”

He recognized the “protectors” of the mountain for their peaceful approach.

“I trust and respect the National Guard, however my belief is they should only be used when there is no other way to protect life and safety.”

Green said he will meet with the community, elected leaders and citizens in the coming days and weeks because “if there is some path to harmony, we should find it together.

“In my opinion no single project, not any, is important enough to allow ourselves to damage the fabric of our ohana in Hawaii,” he continued. “I believe that this struggle is more about the heart of Hawaii and our sense of self and dignity, especially for the Hawaiian people, than it is about a telescope. It is about cultural recognition and people’s self worth.”

Meanwhile, rumors that Gov. Ige is on the Big Island and might visit the protest site today could not be verified.

PREVIOUSLY

Thirty Meter Telescope opponents began their fifth day of occupying the Maunakea Access Road by training for how to resist police — and possibly the National Guard — without violence.

After a tense standoff between protesters and police on Wednesday, protest leader Andre Perez told hundreds of protesters this morning how best to impede access without presenting a threat.

The first line of defense is to be lines of wahine (women), Perez said, stretched across the road in front of the kupuna, or elders, who remain seated across the road. The wahine are to sit and not resist if seized; rather, they were advised to go limp and be carried away.

Perez said the image of armed police seizing unresisting women will reflect poorly upon the state. He added that the protesters are winning the PR battle, and that presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has stated his support for the protesters on social media.

In a tweet today, Sanders said: “We must guarantee native people’s right to self-determination and their right to protest. I stand with Native Hawaiians who are peacefully demonstrating to protect their sacred mountain of Mauna Kea.”

Between the wahine and kupuna will be lines of kane (men), who will do the same as the wahine. However, the kane must be extra careful to not appear threatening, Perez said.

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Protest leader Kahookahi Kanuha said no aggression by protesters will be permissible, as it will justify violent retaliation by the police, he cautioned. Kanuha said chanting “E Aloha E” can help alleviate rising anger among protesters.

“Aloha ‘aina is more powerful than any weapon in the world!” Kanuha said.

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