Ige avoids Mauna Kea crowd as number of activists increase into the weekend

Updated: Jul. 21, 2019 at 2:46 PM HST
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MAUNA KEA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -Demonstrations at the base of Mauna Kea have stretched into the weekend as the crowd in attendance grew considerably in size.

Officials estimate there were as many as 1,400 people at the Mauna Kea Access Road blockade Saturday, which has become the center for cultural gatherings in opposition to the telescope on the sacred mountain.

Things remain peaceful between self-proclaimed protectors and law enforcement with both sides standing their ground respectfully.

But despite the sense of calm and mutual understanding, the state maintains if the activist continue to block the road they are breaking the law and could be arrested if law enforcement decides to move in.

By Saturday, Gov. Ige left Hawaii Island without meeting directly with opponents at Mauna Kea.

Chief, Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla said talks with opponents remains “very respectful on both sides,” contrary to the picture Governor David Ige painted about protests during a press conference Friday.

“On our side, we’re continuing to plan, and we’re remaining in a state of readiness,” Redulla said Saturday. “We’re ready to respond to any type of situation.”

Ige’s decision to not visit Pu’u Huluhulu and meet directly with opponents isn’t sitting well with those who say his allegations of drugs use, alcohol consumption and rowdy crowds at the site were completely false.

“Before you give your statement about what is going on here, you really should be here first so that you can provide accurate information,” opponent Pua Case said.

“You cannot help but be drawn to be here,” Case added.

Meanwhile other county lawmakers did join the activists.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim mingled among the crowd Saturday. Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi also was in attendance after flying in from Oahu to check out the activity first hand.

“After being here and talking with the people, this is not a state of emergency, this is actually a state of humanity,” Tsuneyoshi said.

Organizers say they have trained volunteers wearing blue shirts that say “Kapu Aloha” who will step in if things ever get out of line.

On Saturday, officials reported one arrest of a man in an isolated disturbance at Pu’u Huluhulu. The situation was swiftly handled by both sides and quickly brought under control.

More cars lined the Daniel K. Inouye Highway Saturday than any other day this week.

County police said they would strengthen traffic control measures. Citing an issue with safety, Hawaii Island Police said they planned to enforce the overnight parking code, and ensure no vehicles were in a hazardous position along main roads.

Volunteers and organizers of project opponents ramped up the food supply tent at the Puuonua and added more portable bathrooms, and traffic and pedestrian crossing guards.

Officials also wanted to clarify that the members of the 100th Battallion, 442nd Army Reserve on Hawaii Island were not sent in response to TMT demonstrations. He said they are on the Big Island for training only.

This story will be updated.

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