Frustration mounts as police hand out hundreds of traffic tickets at Mauna Kea

Updated: Aug. 22, 2019 at 11:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Earlier this week, Donna Degelle was driving her 4-Runner from Kona to Hilo when police stopped several cars at a checkpoint at Mauna Kea.

"It was shocking because I didn't know what was happening," she said.

She got a $97 ticket for a tinted windshield. Degelle says the experience left her angry.

“I felt wow. Is this a target to us regular people,” said Degelle.

Since August 15, Hawaii County police have issued 610 citations to drivers near the intersection of Saddle Road and Mauna Kea Access Road, where hundreds of TMT protesters are still camped out.

The violations ranged from speeding to parking tickets.

There were also 13 arrests, including for DUI.

TMT protesters and their supporters claim the crackdown amounts to harassment, but police say they’re focusing on the intersection of a two recent collisions in the area.

"The enforcement effort is intended to ensure the safety of the motorist and protesters alike, with the current situation of pedestrians and vehicles congregating on the roadway shoulders of a 60 mph traffic zone,” said Hawaii County Police Department Major Samuel Jelsma in a statement.

Activists and their supporters aren’t buying it.

“The problem is they know that if they go up there and try to forcibly remove people, it could get real ugly and they don’t want that," said University of Hawaii legal expert Ken Lawson. “So this is another effort of saying they’re trying to enforce the traffic code and everyone around knows that’s BS.”

Meanwhile, Maunakea Observatories released dash cam video to Hawaii News Now that shows what they describe as a precarious drive around the TMT protesters’ blockade.

They say they’re worried about safety in the area.

“Three children ran out in front of my vehicle between cars. We were going slowly so we managed to stop, but that keeps me up at night,” said Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of East Asian Observatory.

“The broadest concern that people have is the sense of lawlessness that’s occurring because of the protests,” said Doug Simons, executive director of Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope

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