HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state’s Attorney General is trying to calm fears and respond to critics who have voiced concerns about law enforcement’s response as the Thirty Meter Telescope prepares for construction on Mauna Kea next week.
In an exclusive interview with Hawaii News Now, A.G. Clare Connors didn’t reveal details on how authorities will react to specific situations, or how they’ll deal with what’s sure to be an emotionally-charged periof ― especially since both law enforcement officials and activists come from the same community.
What Connors would say was that agencies have received training about how to conduct themselves.
“The law officers have taken an oath they have sworn to a uphold this law, and that is what they will do," she said. "Is it easy when there’s a confrontation like this? No it’s not.”
Connors stressed safety for everyone is their primary priority.
“I am concerned about the narrative that paints law enforcement as the bad guys. They are not the bad guys in the situation at all," Connors said. "They are not going to be coming out on the scene in riot gear right off the bat, trying to use excessive force for the heck of using excessive force. It’s not how law enforcement engages,” she said.
"A narrative that paints law enforcement as gung ho and ready to do that is very dangerous," she added.
Connors also talked about government’s potential use of an LRAD public address system. She says the system that was ordered by the state land department is the base model and only used for communication, but critics say it can be used as a ‘sound cannon.’
"We have taken great care to respond when asked about the LRAD, clearly and transparently, about how it’ll be utilized. People hear what they want to hear,' she said.
Activists have vowed more legal challenges, but Connors says TMT has the legal right to proceed ― and that the state is committed to ensuring that, as well as protection of the mountain.
She’s worried large gatherings of people could have an impact on Mauna Kea’s fragile environment.
“If you want to engage in protest, if you want to engage in opposition, if you want to engage in pule which we are definitely encouraging people to do, do it in a place that doesn’t put the mountain and the ecology of the mountain at risk,” she said.