State says weapons won’t be used against protesters on Mauna Kea, but agencies still preparing

In 2015, TMT development stalled. With more pushback likely, concerns rise over how it'll be handled

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The first effort to build the Thirty Meter Telescope in 2015 was met with mass protests that helped stall construction. This time the state plans to be much better prepared.

“We have DOCARE that is participating, Public Safety is participating. We have the Department of Attorney General’s investigation division that’s participating," said Attorney General Clare Connors.

She said Big Island Police will handle safety and security for county street that lead to the main access road.

“The law enforcement individuals have been coordinating for periods of months. The officers are trained and they are going to be prepared to respond to whatever activity takes place," she said.

Gov. David Ige said the National Guard will also be involved. But he said they will be used to transport workers and supplies and will not be armed.

“No weapons. They are much like their disaster response responsibilities. They are there to provide support," the governor said.

TMT opponents said the closure will not stop them from practicing their cultural and religious beliefs.

“Mauna Kea is our temple and if we want to go up to the Mauna to pray to be with our Akua then we have that right to access," said Healani Sonoda-Pale of the Ka Lahui Hawaii Political Action Committee.

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement said it plans buy safety equipment such as gas masks and ear plugs to help the protestors.

One of the crowd control tactics civil liberties advocates are raising concerns about is the use of a long range public address system. They call it a sound cannon.

“Not only is it a military-oriented weapon but it uses acoustic energy -- sound -- to force compliance by causing pain," said Wookie Kim, staff attorney for the ACLU of Hawaii.

The state didn’t rule out using it at Mauna Kea but said it will only be used as a public address system.

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