MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - In early morning darkness, two dozen Department of Land and Natural Resources officers enforced the state's emergency rule that mandates the area along Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road is off-limits from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.
"You want a citation or be under arrest?" a DOCARE officer asks one man.
Law enforcement arrested seven men and issued citations to six others holding a round-the-clock-vigil protesting the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
"We are well within our rights. This is a traditional and customary activity. This is a religious activity. This is a peaceful assembly," one of the men tells officers as he's led away.
The arrests came on the day that commemorates the raising of the Hawaiian flag after British occupation of Hawaii in 1843. Some Native Hawaiians don't believe it was a coincidence.
"I know that State officials are aware of La Hoihoi Ea. I know that they know what it stands for. On a day where Hawaiians would celebrate the restoration of sovereignty, they want to try to continue to take it away from us and to deprive us from that," said Kahookahi Kanuha of Ku Kia'i Mauna.
Enforcement action was expected since the rule went into effect July 14.
After the arrests Gov. David Ige released a statement saying, "While we had hoped arrests would not have to be made in the process of citing violators... we were prepared to take action, and we did so."
"When the state starts developing emergency rules that actually protect one side, particularly development, I believe that's a bad precedent," Lawful Hawaiian Government's Henry Noa said.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs urged the state to cease further enforcement action and arrests until legal questions relating to the Mauna Kea emergency rules are resolved.
In a statement, TMT said it hasn't determined when work on the giant telescope will resume on Mauna Kea.
Bail for five of the men arrested was set at $250, one at $400, and another at $3,100 because of additional charges and warrants.
Big Island police said all seven posted bail.
For more information on the DLNR's emergency rules, click here.