Hawai'i National Guard officials insist they have not been asked to respond to Mauna Kea and no planning is taking place to go to the mountain, but troops would mobilize immediately if requested by the governor.
A day after telling reporters he would activate the National Guard on Mauna Kea "if need be", Governor David Ige told a town hall crowd Tuesday night there is no official plan at this time.
"We are not planning for it. There have been no conversations about that, but we are also committed to providing safe access, so if 10,000 people want to get up to Mauna Kea that's a bad situation," said Ige.
The governor's position reflects a shift from his original stance on June 29 that sending in the National Guard was not an option. Administration officials say Ige's mindset about activating the National Guard changed after hearing testimony during the Board of Land and Natural Resources' emergency rule hearing last Friday.
Ever since the June 24 showdown between Thirty Meter Telescope protesters and law enforcement officers trying to provide crews with access to their construction site, rumors have circulated that Hawai'i's National Guard would be called in.
"I can tell you definitively, we've not been asked to mobilize any forces. We've not even done any planning," said Lt. Colonel Chuck Anthony, Director of Public Affairs State of Hawai'i Department of Defense.
Hawai'i Revised Statute 121-30 gives the governor the authority to activate the National Guard in cases of war, emergency or disaster and also civil disturbances or "forcible obstruction to the execution of the law or reasonable apprehension thereof".
"The National Guard can be used to assist law enforcement agencies in a lot of different roles and no, you don't necessarily have to have any quote - 'disaster proclamation' in order to utilize members of the guard to assist law enforcement agencies," said Lt. Col Anthony, the Hawai'i National Guard spokesman.
There is local precedent. In 2001, the Guard was activated in Honolulu in anticipation of potential civil disobedience at the Asian Development Bank conference.
"A number of National Guard soldiers and airmen were mobilized at that particular time and were available to be used in the event that any protests may have turned violent," said Lt. Col Anthony.
Officials say it didn't, but troops were on the scene and on standby. Lt. Col Anthony says an act of violence is not needed to trigger to their response.
"The National Guard can assist civil authorities when the capacity of the civil authorities has been exceeded, that would normally be a trigger in which you would look to the Guard to supplement civil authorities," said Lt. Col Anthony.
Guard officials confirm troops did complete civil disturbance training over the weekend, but say it was a previously scheduled annual requirement and was not directly related to the ongoing situation on Mauna Kea.
Hawai'i Revised Statute 121-30
TITLE 10. PUBLIC SAFETY AND INTERNAL SECURITY
121. Militia; National Guard
121-30 Order to active service.
Universal Citation: HI Rev Stat § 121-30 (2014)
§121-30 Order to active service. In case of war, insurrection, invasion, riot, or imminent danger thereof; an emergency or disaster; or danger from flood, fire, storm, earthquake, civil disturbances, or terrorist events; any forcible obstruction to the execution of the laws, or reasonable apprehension thereof; or for assistance to civil authorities in disaster relief or emergency management, the governor may order the national guard or other component of the militia or any part thereof into active service. The governor or the governor's designated representative may also order the national guard into active service:
(1) In nonemergency situations for duty and training in addition to the drill and instruction required by section 121-28;
(2) To provide support to other states in response to a request for assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact under chapter 128F; and
(3) To detect, prevent, prepare for, investigate, respond to, or recover from any of the events for which an order to active service may be made.