Court hearing for nine arrested during TMT protests draws crowd of about 200

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Edleen "Aunty Tootsie" Peleiholani talks to the media following arraignment and not guilty pleas for her and eight other kupuna for misdemeanor obstruction Friday at the Hilo courthouse. Police arrested 38 individuals on July 17 for allegedly blocking Maunakea Access Road to prevent construction trucks and workers from scaling the mountain to build the Thirty Meter Telescope.

An overflow crowd of about 200 people packed a Hilo courtroom and an adjacent hallway as nine kupuna were arraigned this morning on charges they obstructed Maunakea Access Road on July 17 to prevent construction vehicles and workers from scaling Maunakea to build the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The nine, Jim Albertini, Tomas Belsky, Marie Alohalani Brown, Ana Kahoopii, Kaliko Kanaele, Carmen Hulu Lindsey, Edleen Peleiholani, Hawley Reese and Ranette Robinson, all pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor obstruction charges. They were the first of 38 individuals arrested on the third day of protests on the mountain they consider sacred.

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Peleiholani, who’s known as “Aunty Tootsie,” was clad in a red blouse and ti leaf lei, bearing a red- and yellow-feathered kahili. She told Hilo District Judge Bruce Larson, “I plead not guilty of being on Hawaiian land.”

Larson ordered all nine to appear at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 20 for pre-trial conferences. Trials will presumably be set during those court dates.

The remaining 29 individuals arrested face court dates next month and in October.

Maunakea Access Road continues to be blockaded by demonstrators protesting the construction of the $1.4 billion telescope. The protesters call themselves kia‘i, or protectors of the mountain.

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See Saturday’s Tribune-Herald for a more detailed story.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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