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DAY 7: State Says Weather Could Pose Threat on Mauna Kea

July 21, 2019, 2:28 PM HST
* Updated July 21, 5:05 PM
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TMT protest, DAY 3, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. PC: Gerald Besson

A protest on Hawai‘i Island’s Mauna Kea against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope continued into its seventh day on Sunday, July 21, 2019.

Hawai‘i Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) Chief Jason Redulla spoke to reporters in the early Sunday afternoon with updates on the conditions atop the mountain.

The greatest present concern, according to Chief Redulla, centered around a small chance that lightning and thunderstorms may materialize on Mauna Kea as the day pressed on.

“If this happens, we ask people to take shelter immediately,” he said. “At this location, the safest place is within an automobile with the windows up. We want to remind everyone that it’s not safe to shelter in a tent or a canopy.”

Possible thunderstorms aside, drama continues to build a week into the standoff over TMT, as Saturday saw protestor numbers swell to more than 1,400 and Sunday saw that figure rise to roughly 2,000. Only one arrest had been made over the weekend as of late Sunday afternoon, however.

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The Hawai‘i Police Department confirmed a 66-year-old male, Derick Higa, was arrested for disorderly conduct after becoming involved in an altercation with fellow protestors around 1 p.m. Saturday.

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Higa was arrested and taken to Hilo, where he subsequently posted bail. No drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident, police said.

Chief Redulla rounded out his comments Sunday saying that to improve safety in the area, the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation has moved the portable electronic message boards, which warn motorists of increased pedestrian foot traffic, closer to the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the Maunakea Access Road.

As to what week two of the TMT protest may bring and how the state is preparing for it, the chief did not elaborate.

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“I can’t speak to our future plans except to say that at this point, we continue to plan and prepare with the focus on safety and security of everybody involved,” he said.

Challenges to the state have only increased since the protest began, as members of the Hawai‘i state government and prominent federal legislators have called on Gov. Ige to backdown from his emergency declaration.

According to court records, Paul Neves — a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner, a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha and a resident of Keaukaha — has also filed a lawsuit against Gov. David Ige for the governor’s use of an emergency proclamation. In the lawsuit, filed in Honolulu Circuit Court on Thursday, Neves claims Gov. Ige’s methodology has violated both his rights and the Hawai‘i emergency management law.

  • Personnel have improved access to and from Hale Pohaku, Chief Redulla said, adding that access to Mauna Kea remains closed for safety reasons.

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