Twelve Arrested in TMT Protest
***Update posted at 5:50 p.m. to include a statement from Kealoha Pisciotta of Mauna Kea Hui.***
Kealoha Pisciotta of Mauna Kea Hui released a statement Thursday after protesters were arrested for attempting to block access to the summit of Mauna Kea by crews of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
“There are no words…we are deeply deeply saddened by the arrests today of our Hawaiian brothers and sisters and other citizens who were peacefully protecting Mauna Kea from further desecration while we wait for Hawaiʻi’s courts to hear our appeal,” said Pisciotta.
“Today’s arrests are hewa—a grave wrongdoing. At least 30 of our Mauna Kea ohana have been handcuffed and hauled off the mountain by County police and by State DOCARE officers of the Department of Land and Natural Resources—the very state agency that we are challenging in court,” Pisciotta continued.
Big Island Now could not verify that the number of people arrested matched Pisciotta’s claim. The Hawai’i Police Department reported Thursday afternoon that 12 people had been arrested and subsequently released after posting bail.
In the statement, Pisciotta said that she and others had reached out to several high-ranking officials to intervene, including Governor David Ige, Hawai’i County Mayor Billy Kenoi, University of Hawai’i President David Lassner, and Hawai’i County Prosecutor Mitch Roth. She said that the appeal did not help.
“Last night we were informed by the Governor’s Chief of Staff that there was ‘too much construction company money at stake” for us to expect Governor Ige to use his executive authority to hold off construction until our appeal can be heard by the State Supreme Court,” Pisciotta said Thursday afternoon.
***Original story posted at 3:40 p.m.***
Protesters of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope were arrested on the slopes of Mauna Kea Thursday morning. According to the Hawai’i Police Department, 12 individuals were arrested.
HPD says the arrests were a result of individuals blocking access to construction workers who were on their way to the summit of Mauna Kea to begin work on TMT.
“During the arrests, our officers practiced the Hawai’i Police Department’s core value of compassion,” assistant chief Henry Tavares, who oversees police operations in East Hawai’i, said Thursday.
Police have been in communication with protesters throughout the week. Earlier, the group was told that they had the right to protest peacefully. According to police, protesters were also asked for a peaceful resolution and cooperation in refraining from obstructing the roadway.
During the conversation early this week, police informed protesters that anyone who blocked the public road that led to the area of construction would be arrested.
Beginning at about 8 a.m. and lasting through 12 p.m. the following 12 individuals were arrested: Ronald Fujiyoshi, 75, of Hilo; Moanikeala Akaka, 70, of Hilo; Joseph Kanuha, 56, of Kailua-Kona; Eric Heaukulani, 38, of Kealakekua; Kelii Ioane Jr., 63, of Hilo; James Albertini, 68, of Kurtistown; Erin O’Donnell, 40, of Kamuela; Craig Neff, 56 ,of Pāpaʻikou; Gary Oamilda, 66, of Ocean View; Chase Kahookahi Kanuha, 26, of Kailua-Kona; Dannette Henrietta Godines, 45, of Hilo; and Lambert Lavea, 27, of Mountain View.
All 12 individuals were taken to the Hilo police station and processed. They were released after posting $250 bail.
Project Manager Gary Sanders released a statement, the second this week, on the arrests:
“TMT respects the rights of everyone to express their viewpoints. We also respect the law of the State of Hawai’i and the seven-year-public process and authority that granted us permits to build the Thirty Meter Telescope in the Maunakea Science Reserve’s Astronomy Precinct. Like most people in the community we truly believe that science and culture can coexist on Maunakea as it has for the past 50-year along with other public uses.”
Bianca Isaki of KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance told BigIslandNow.com that from the protest standpoint, the arrests are wrong, stating that the TMT project continues to be challenged in court, and that at the current time, there are three cases pending against TMT.
“UH/TMT insist they have earned a right to remove whomever stands in the way of their project because they sat through years of environmental review, public hearings, a contested case, and a circuit court case. Well, we were there, too. UH/TMT just sat there throughout, never making an effort [to] understand, always taking the path of most resistance. Now, as then, they are bullying their way through to construction of their project. These arrests are a product of UH/TMT’s disrespect for public processes, the courts, and especially Mauna Kea’s protectors.”
On Tuesday, the Mauna a Wakea Ohana also released a statement.