MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Attorney General Doug Chin on Wednesday released the following statement with respect to the protests on Mauna Kea:
"We respect those who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights within the boundaries of the law. What the State cannot allow is for people to take the law into their own hands. Our courts are the proper place for people to seek legal remedies.
Mauna Kea is a protected conservation district, forest reserve and hunting area. While we appreciate the effort of volunteers who helped clean up the summit road, the actions of certain individuals in the past week led to the University of Hawaii's closure of the road. Deliberately building a rock wall in the middle of a road without warning threatens public safety. Purposely placing boulders in a road could get someone killed. Commercial activities and camping in this protected area without a permit are against State regulations. This is not a statement against the content of the protest, but the conduct.
I am working with the Governor, the University of Hawaii, and the departments of land and natural resources and public safety and will take all lawful steps to see the road re-opened with safe access to all."
This statement comes exactly one week after a seven-hour standoff along the road to the summit as TMT construction crews tried to return to the site for the first time in months. About 700 protesters gathered in an attempt to block work on the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea, which they say is a sacred Native Hawaiian space.
A total of 11 people were arrested, and the TMT crews made it about 1.5 miles up the seven-mile road before the Department of Land and Natural Resources determined that officers and crew members would be turning around due to large rock walls that some of the protesters built in the middle of the road.