HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -Gov. David Ige held a news conference Sunday to address the mounting tensions over the start of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
He specifically addressed rumors that law enforcement planned to sweep Mauna Kea before construction resumes Monday morning, saying there are no such plans.
“We are concerned about these false rumors and speculation about state law enforcement activities creates anxiety," he said.
Tensions have ramped up even higher over the weekend as the law enforcement presence on the Big Island has increased.
Nearly a dozen Honolulu Police are assisting Hawaii County Police and the state Land Board’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.
Unarmed National Guardsmen are also taking part but will only be helping in the transport of supplies and workers.
“There’s no intention for law enforcement to intervene on any activity as long as participants are behaving in a lawful behavior," Gov. Ige said.
Ige was also asked about the rumored use of tear gas. He responded with, “Law enforcement has been preparing in a number of different way, and we are prepared to respond to whatever the situation may be.” When asked for further clarifications on what tools law enforcement officers had at their disposal, Ige said he didn’t know and couldn’t comment on specifics.
He added that he anticipates protests won’t get heated, saying, “We expect, and I expect, the best behavior from our community.”
Construction is set to begin Monday along with road closures at 7 a.m. leading up the mountain.
Opponents to the project have already started lining the streets near Mauna Kea.
On Sunday, Big Island Mayor Harry Kim went there to speak with some of the opponents and ease tensions. He arrived near a site at the foot of the mountain where Native Hawaiians and other activists converged at Pu’uhonua 'O Pu’u Huluhulu.
“I’ve told them that this place will be allowed for them to carry on their vigil. They need a place. Now we’re trying to see how we can minimize any parking problems, those things, just to address it as the problems come about because there’s a lot of cars here and we shouldn’t block the main highway,” Kim said.
Others there Sunday described the atmosphere as a peaceful place filled with tradition.
“Honestly the mood is calm. In reference and ceremony, very happy we we’re very happy that the Pu’uhonua has been established and everyone was feeling safe. We got a little nervous about statements saying they were going to do a sweep to arrest everyone but I think that’s been put down,” Kealoha Pisciotta of Mauna Kea Ainana Hou said.
Meanwhile, supports of the project are happy to see construction finally get underway.
Richard Ha is TMT supporter and member of Pueo, a group that came together during the contested case hearings to support the telescope.
He says many supporters are reluctant to speak out due to fear, but he’s in favor of TMT for job creation to help the Big Island’s economy.
“We really need to diversify our economy and that’s the reality,” Ha said. There’s all kinds of jobs attached to making this work from the people who run the offices to many kinds of jobs that use computers."
Watch the full livestream of the Governor’s news conference below:
This story will be updated.