MAUNA KEA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A day after Gov. David Ige claimed TMT protest organizers have not been able to maintain order, Hawaii county mayor Harry Kim visited operations at Mauna Kea.
He toured the protesters’ facilities at Pu’uhonua 'O Pu’u Huluhulu Saturday and later spoke to a crowd of TMT opponents.
“I think this is a gathering of people together for the first time, openly -- as hard as it is for some to believe -- that they really proud to be Hawaiian,” Kim said. “The organization and respect for their orders and authorities... (it’s) unbelievable unless you’re here.”
He says organizers have their operations in order and joked that it may be operating more smoothly than his county.
“If I had this kind of organization for all my county and government workers, I’d be in top shape," he stated.
On Friday, Gov. Ige said the puuhonua “fell apart” and said law enforcement agencies reported drug and alcohol use.
But Mayor Kim said he felt the camp was safe enough to leave his 9-year-old granddaughter there alone.
“I seen so many come in with food and so many different kind of things -- all of it, very, very orderly. Even with this high stress situation, I feel about as comfortable and relaxed as you can be of warmth," Kim told Hawaii News Now.
TMT opponents have criticized Ige over his comments and have questioned whether he should have signed an emergency proclamation.
When asked whether the situation at Mauna Kea was considered an emergency, Mayor Kim said, people should not “misread when (Gov. Ige) declares an emergency."
“I’ve declared an emergency as civil defense and mayor many times," Kim said. "It’s not because it’s out of control. It’s because that gives me the authority to do things in case I need (it).”
Kim has visited the protesters’ camp at least three times since they’ve set up a base at Pu’u Huluhulu at Mauna Kea on July 14.