UPDATE: Ige makes surprise visit to Maunakea

  • Kahookahi Kanuha responds to Gov. David Ige's announcement that Mayor Harry Kim will be leading negotiations with the TMT protesters, who call themselves "protectors."
  • The scene of the TMT protests earlier today.
  • Protesters sing this morning near the Maunakea Access Road.

UPDATED 5:55 p.m.

Gov. Ige is on Maunakea and visiting with protesters stationed near the Maunakea Access Road.

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The governor made the visit after traveling to the Big Island today to meet with Mayor Harry Kim.

Ige made his way through the protesters’ camp, hugging and talking with kupuna. The crowd was mostly quiet and respectful. Kim also was at the site.

In brief remarks, Ige said he looked forward to “more dialogue” in the future over the TMT standoff.

UPDATED 4:04 p.m.

According to a statement from the Maunakea Observatories, a car containing technicians from Gemini Observatory was stopped by protesters from entering the Maunakea Access Road this morning.

The observatory had been assured access the previous day in conversation with law enforcement and the Office of Maunakea Management, according to the statement.

“Despite prior public statements indicating observatory technicians would not be denied access to the telescopes, activists today contradicted their earlier position,” according to the statement. “Activists told observatory personnel that without a formal, public letter from the observatories — supporting activists’ demands of the state — access for critical technical maintenance is no longer supported.”

Upon initial approach, the car of technicians was initially waived through the bamboo gate; the driver stopped to speak with an official from the Office of Maunakea Management, at which point a kupuna approached the car, stating that access was not to be allowed, the statement said.

“Five additional activists then moved to stand in front of the car. This denial of access was contrary to the understanding of access approval by the Gemini crew members and the individual who had initially opened the gate.”

The car of technicians pulled to the side of the road at the request of the protesters and waited for approximately 45 minutes. During that time, activist leaders indicated that they were working to determine whether the technicians should be allowed access.

The Gemini crew members elected to turn back. The crew was flagged down on their way away from the access point with an appeal from activists to continue to wait, according to the statement. The crew stopped to speak with the activists briefly before continuing to the Gemini base facility in Hilo.

The “planned technical work” would have taken the Gemini technicians approximately three hours to complete, according to Maunakea Observatories.

UPDATED 12:17 p.m.

Kahookahi Kanuha, one of the protest leaders, reacted to Gov. Ige’s announcement earlier today that Mayor Harry Kim would be leading the negotiations with the protesters.

“We’ll see what (the announcement) means,” he said.

“(Mayor Kim has) visited here three times, he knows the community … his leadership may be more understanding,” Kanuha said.

Kanuha also noted that, “For the first time, Ige did not refer to us as protesters.” Ige referred to them “as protectors of Maunakea.”

Kanuha also noted that Ige acknowledged that the issue for the protesters is not just TMT, but more than a century of “marginalization of kanaka.”

UPDATED 10:58 a.m.

Gov. David Ige just issued a statement in which he calls upon Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim “to coordinate both county and state efforts to peacefully attempt to reach common ground with the protectors of Maunakea and the broader community. Mayor Kim is closest to the situation and the impacts are greatest on the island he leads.”

“We both share the goal of achieving a resolution that is peaceful and satisfactory to as many as possible in the community,” Ige said. “I support the vision he has widely articulated for Maunakea as a beacon of hope and discovery for the world that brings us together rather than divides us. And we both understand that the issues underlying what is taking place today are far deeper than TMT or Maunakea. They are about righting the wrongs done to the Hawaiian people going back more than a century.

“While Mayor Kim will be taking the lead, hard decisions will need to be jointly supported by the state and county and we will be working together to determine next steps that are in the best interests of all the people of Hawaii.”

PREVIOUSLY

Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura today denied a petition for a temporary restraining order to halt construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The petition was filed as part of a larger lawsuit for an injunction by Maunakea Anaina Hou, Kealoha Pisciotta, Paul Neves, Clarence “Ku” Ching, Cindy Freitas, William Freitas, Kaliko Kanaele and Lanny Sinkin.

“The evidence has not been presented to show that that (TMT) is financially unable to complete the project,” Nakamura said.

Nakamura also said the petitioners had not presented evidence that they were likely to prevail on the merits of the case or that the public interest favors granting an injunction.

Meanwhile, Honolulu police brought over to the Big Island last week to assist with the Thirty Meter Telescope protest are heading back to Oahu.

About a dozen police vehicles were seen traveling from down Maunakea to Hilo this morning.

“In response to a request for assistance from the Hawaii Police Department, 56 officers were sent to Hawaii Island last Tuesday,” a Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman said in a statement. “Their assignment was to assist the Hawaii police officers in keeping roadways clear for the movement of construction equipment. The officers and vehicles will return to Oahu (Monday and Tuesday).”

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According to to the spokeswoman, the officers come from nonpatrol and support units on Oahu. Their salaries will be paid by the department, and other expenses, including overtime and airfare, will be reimbursed by the state attorney general’s office.

When asked if there are plans for officers to return in the future, the spokeswoman said no further information was available at this time.

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