HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Before an illegal structure was removed from Mauna Kea on Friday, an officer used a chainsaw to cut through a boarded up door to make sure no one was inside.
In doing so, he also cut through a Hawaiian flag affixed to the door.
And that action quickly grew condemnation from protesters, who said the action amounted to desecration and could have easily been avoided.
The flag had been affixed to the structure before demolition crews arrived.
On Friday morning, HNN saw activists using nails or screws to affix the flag to the structure’s entrance. Plywood was also bolted to the door while a window was covered from the inside.
Activist leaders say the flag was tacked on and mounted for a display.
Shortly afterward, law enforcement and state Transportation Department crews moved in.
In video shot at the protest camp, a law enforcement officer can be seen cutting into the structure and leaving the Hawaiian flag cut and torn.
“The first thing that they did was slice that Hawaiian flag right in half and that served only to agitate and escalate the emotions of the people who were there,” said TMT protester Andres Perez.
But state officials defended their actions.
“Officers had to cut through the flag in order to get through the building,” said Ed Sniffen, of the state Department of Transportation.
“All the windows were blacked out, all covered and there was no way for our law enforcement to see inside the building to see if anybody was there to see if was safe to take down.”
He said that the damaged flag, along with another one located on the structure’s roof, were both returned to protesters.