Group fears state’s new ‘sound cannon’ could be used against TMT protesters

Updated: Jun. 21, 2019 at 7:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaiian and environmental group is asking the head of the state Land Department not to use a sound device that was developed by the military ― as the state and activists prepare for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The state’s procurement request says the so-called “sound cannon” is for natural disaster warnings.

But attorneys for the community group say it could be used to disperse protesters during the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope this summer.

According to the manufacturer, the device produces long-range voice and alert tone broadcasts to establish large safety zones.

[Read more: Activists pledge more protests as Thirty Meter Telescope construction given green light to proceed]

Procurement documents show the state spent $15,000 for the portable battery-powered public address and hailing system kit.

An attorney for KAHEA is concerned how the sound waves be used if things escalate during TMT construction at Mauna Kea, where activists expect hundreds of protesters.

“The state has already shown that they are not going to notify anyone before they do things,” said attorney Lance Collins.

"In the ways that they have been used against demonstrators ... what happens immediately is that people use their balance. They are completely immobilized. People have vomited. They experience headaches, loose consciousness, having hearing injuries."

In a statement, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said the noise devices are common purchases for emergency management and law enforcement agencies.

“The public address and hailing system is not a weapon and is not listed in DOCARE’s use of force continuum,” the agency said.

The LRAD, or long-range acoustic device, was developed for the military after the bombing of the USS Cole and has been used to disperse protesters in other cities.

The purchase was made by DOCARE, the Land Department’s law enforcement arm.

The procurement documents say the agency’s responsibilities include public warning and emergency notification during emergencies, such as natural disasters.

Concern about the purchase comes a day after state officers dismantled activist-constructed structures and shrines atop Mauna Kea, and announced that the TMT project had been given a “notice to proceed” with construction. The governor said construction would start “this summer.”

On Friday, activists erected another ahu or shrine on Mauna Kea, in the same area where other structures were removed. There was no immediate word on whether the ahu would be removed.

This story will be updated.

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