Eight arrested on Mauna Kea

SUBHEAD: TMT protesters arrested on Mauna Kea while attempting to stop construction atop mountain considered sacred.

By AP Staff on 9 September 2015 for the Guardian -

Image above:  The base camp for protesters of the Thirty Meter Telescope project occupies a site near the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island. Photograph by Caleb Jones-AP. From original article.

Seven women and one man were arrested early on Wednesday in the latest round of arrests in the ongoing battle against building a giant telescope atop a mountain many native Hawaiians consider sacred.

The state department of land and natural resources said 20 of its officers arrested the protesters on Mauna Kea at about 1am. They were enforcing an emergency rule created to stop people from camping on Mauna Kea.

The land board approved the rule in July, which restricts access to the mountain during certain nighttime hours and prohibits certain camping gear. It was prompted by protesters’ around-the-clock presence to prevent construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

Protesters say officers hauled them away while they were praying. In video footage provided by the state, officers are seen walking toward a group of people huddled in a circle and chanting. A man’s voice is heard saying: “Eh, they’re praying you guys, they’re praying.”

The footage shows officers putting plastic handcuffs on women and putting them into the back of a vehicle. “Why do I have to have my hands behind my back,” a woman asked. “Because you’ll be placed in restraints, ma’am,” an officer responded.

The emergency rule, in place for 120 days, is intended to make the mountain safe for protesters, visitors and workers of the 13 telescopes already on the mountain, the state said.

Attorney general Doug Chin told the land board that even though camping is already prohibited on the mountain, a targeted rule is necessary because of bad behavior by some protesters – ranging from putting boulders in the road to threats and harassment – created unsafe conditions.

The nonprofit company building the Thirty Meter Telescope hasn’t indicated when there will be another attempt to resume construction. Workers weren’t able reach the site during two previous attempts when they were blocked by hundreds of protesters, including dozens who were arrested.

This was the fourth time telescope opponents have been arrested on the mountain.

University of Hawaii law school professor Williamson Chang has filed a lawsuit seeking to repeal the rule, arguing it prevents telescope opponents from legally exercising their rights to peacefully protest.


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