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DLNR UPDATE: ‘Law Enforcement Showed Great Restraint’

July 18, 2019, 4:42 PM HST
* Updated July 18, 6:03 PM
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2 PM: Mauna Kea Media Update

Dan Dennison, senior communication manager at DLNR:

“Nobody should be keeping score about this situation here at Mauna Kea. This is not a game. We certainly respect everyone’s right to peacefully protest and we expect that to continue in the future. Yesterday, law enforcement showed great restraint. Anyone that characterized it yesterday as a failure is just simply wrong.”

Dennison addressed officers walking in formation down the highway. He said normally for crowd control officers would be wearing helmets, but he said they did not in an attempt to show respect for the situation.

“The crowd was so large yesterday large that decision to deescalate and that is the reason that they backed off and left the area. There is no intention, as the governor has said over and over again, to use force against peaceful protestors.”

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He said law enforcement had to clear the disruption to the public caused by the closure of saddle road when protestors and cars blocked it.

Police and kia‘i on Maua Kea, July 17, 2019. PC: Crystal Richard

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When asked to clarify, Dennison said that the crowd was too large and because they were peaceful law enforcement chose to deescalate the situation.

“There was no reason to show force, explained Dennison. “The state’s top priority is the safety and security of everyone here. You have all seen that in action every day, including yesterday … We’d like to remind everyone on site here not to hinder or obstruct law enforcement or an order from a law enforcement officer.”

He said both law enforcement and Mauna Protectors have all behaved in a very respectful manner.

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“There continues to be a lot of misinformation on social media, stated Dennison. “There were false claims yesterday that the state closed Saddle Road without any justification. As I explained, when there are people in vehicles obstructing the road, the decision was made to close for public safety and for public safety alone.”

He said though they could not provide specific details about Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation, that as a result of the proclamation only authorized vehicles are allowed beyond the cattle guard on Mauna Kea Access Road, including no foot traffic.

“The emergency proclamation gives law enforcement increased flexibility and authority to restrict access, allowing law enforcement to improve its management of the entire area for public safety and security.”

He said he was aware of an agreement to get vehicles removed from Saddle Road but could not say whether that decision was connected to having law enforcement back off.

“The state was justified in closing the road because it was a public safety hazard. That is the only reason the road was closed because there were people and vehicles in the middle of road, and they needed to get those out before they could reopen it.”

HDOT Ed Sniffen on Maua Kea Access Rd, July 17, 2019. PC: Crystal Richard

He pointed out that many people drive up to 75 mph down Saddle Road, which makes it a dangerous place to have people on the shoulders and crossing back and forth.

When asked about the controversial LRAD machine was on site he said, “I understand it was used as public addressing system, which has been the intention all along. Its not as powerful as everyone thinks, because I was back here, and I couldn’t hear it.”

He assured the media that there was no intention to ever use force on peaceful protestors. The officers could be seen wearing large wooden batons, pepper spray, mace, zip ties and helmets with face shields.

Police lining Mauna Kea Access Road, July 17, 2019. PC: Crystal Richard

Dennison was asked if there was never intention to use force why were none of the HPD officers wearing their badges and appeared to have no way to be identified. He said he did not know but would check.

There seemed to be a lot of confusion around the change in closing the mountain to foot traffic. Dennison said the emergency proclamation changed things and that the mountain is completely closed to all vehicles and foot traffic. He said the mountain is closed to cultural practitioners at this time.

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