Mauna Kea ‘Protectors’ Appear in Court
Several participants of the Mauna Kea movement that were arrested for blocking construction workers from reaching the Mauna Kea summit on June 24 appeared in court Thursday morning.
The June 24 arrests include: Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo, 49, of Kula; Andre Perez, 44, of Pearl City; Chase Kanuha, 26, of Kailua-Kona; Hualalai Keohuloa, of Kamuela; Kawika Hassard, 36, of Hilo; Joseph Alapai, 54, of Kailua-Kona; Lori Parizal, 45, of Waipahu; Gene Tamashiro, 58, of Hilo; Michel Prevost, 60, of Hakalau; Kaapunialiionalanikiekie Aiwohi, 25, of Wailuku; Michalann Trainer, 44, of Hilo and Ulises Consuegra, 44.
All but Consuegra were arrested on the state portion of the Mauna Kea access road. He was arrested on the county portion of the roadway.
Those arrested are part of a growing movement that aims to protect the Big Island mountain from further development as construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope is slated to begin this year.
However, protesters who have been camped out on the mountain since April 2, and whom prefer to be referred to as “protectors” of Mauna Kea, have halted construction for the telescope on multiple occasions.
A majority of the arrestees met with Judge Barbara Takase for their initial court appearance in Waimea. She explained to those present that they faced an obstruction charge, a petty misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a 30-day jail sentence and a maximum fine of $1,000.
Representing the state was Deputy Prosecutor Britt Bailey.
Those who were present during the initial court appearance were asked whether or not they wanted the state to provide them with legal council, and were given an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or of no-contest.
Several asked for court-appointed attorneys and were granted the return of their bail money. Others chose to represent themselves in the matter, including Keohuloa who said he, as a Hawaiian, felt it best to speak for himself.
“I chose to represent myself because that’s all I have- my honesty,” Keohuloa said following court. “Culturally it’s your job to represent yourself. It’s kind of suicide in this type of system, but that’s all we have.”
Takase found it necessary to clarify the responses of multiple defendants who demonstrated their culture by speaking in Hawaiian.
“Let’s get one thing clear, I don’t understand the Hawaiian language,” Takase noted during the arraignment.
After speaking to each individual about their decision, Takase took a recess and the self-proclaimed protectors left the court. Some will have to return to enter a plea next month while others will have a pretrial conference in the coming months.
Keohuloa described the mood on Thursday as “real mellow.”
“We want to make sure even though we’re in this environment that we remain calm,” Keohuloa said following court.
Kaapunialiionalanikiekie Aiwohi, who had to travel from Maui to appear in court, said that although he didn’t want to get arrested on June 24, he’s happy he made it to the mountain that day to be apart of the movement.
“I think that no matter what happens, whatever they decide to do, if they decide to build it or if they don’t decide to, I think that we made such a big impact around the world,” he said.