3 arrested for disorderly conduct while protesting BLNR member

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three Thirty Meter Telescope opponents were arrested at a state Land Board meeting Friday for being disruptive.

The three, identified as Samuel Kaeo, Chase Kanuha and Andre Perez, were among a group of about a dozen Native Hawaiians who interrupted the meeting to call for the immediate resignation of board member Sam Ohu Gon.

Gon recently voted to approve the telescope's construction permit and serves as the board's official cultural adviser.

He has an extensive resume in environmental issues and is also a well-respected practitioner of Hawaiian culture.

But because he's not Native Hawaiian, the protesters say he should not be making decisions that affect their people.

"We are asking that you should leave the seat because you do not represent the lahui kanaka!," one member shouted.

After ignoring requests to calm down, the meeting was put on hold as law enforcement officers carried some of the protestors out of the room.

"In the midst of that intervention, three individuals engaged in passive resistance causing us to physically remove them from the room and place them under arrest," said Jason Redulla, deputy enforcement chief for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

They were arrested for disorderly conduct. On Saturday, police records showed the three were released on $100 bail.

"We understand their right to express themselves and the point they were trying to make this morning. However, whenever those types of expression cross the line into disorderly conduct, we as law enforcement have to act," said Redulla.

BLNR Chair Suzanne Case defended Gon's respectability and knowledge of Hawaiian culture.

"It is disappointing and frankly offensive that some who disagree with the Land Board's recent decision on the TMT telescope choose to aim personally at Ohu or any board member.  This is not peaceful protest.  We must simply reject this kind of divisiveness in Hawaii as well as nationally and globally, and practice respect in our public discourse no matter our views," Case said.

Group members say the land board's cultural advisor should be Hawaiian and not appointed by the governor.

"He (Gon) has cultural expertise for sure, but anybody can gain that. That seat should be occupied by a Native Hawaiian that is vetted through a process by the Native Hawaiian community," said Ilima Long, opponent of TMT.

Long say the board's decision to approve a construction permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope was a major blow, but they still plan to block the project any way they can.

"The TMT is not going to go up. That was one of the final stages in the legal process and that means a lot of our options have been exhausted. And that puts us in a position to have to use our bodies basically to stop construction," Long said.

Gon was not available to talk about the controversy.

TMT still needs approval from the state Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands before construction can start.

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