Rumors of Mauna Kea sweeps run rampant on social media, causing worry for some

Updated: Sep. 9, 2019 at 8:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - An overnight false alarm and social media rumors over the weekend sparked all hands on deck of an estimated 1,000-plus people at Mauna Kea.

Leaders of Pu’uhonua O Pu’uhuluhulu are asking followers to not spread fear or confusion.

Rumors of a camp raid started Friday after law enforcement came in and the state bulldozed an illegal wooden structure.

Then came overwhelming chatter over social media of talk about National Guard, law enforcement, Saddle Road closures, cell phones jamming and reports of an air horn. All this left frayed nerves of people on and off the mauna.

Mauloa Covington and Eric Johnston were arrested Friday during the demolition of the illegal structure. They spoke to Hawaii News Now about the unconfirmed reports.

"We heard they were putting up a road block. Everybody has been on their toes since that happened," said Covington.

"We heard they were going to sweep all the tents and arrest every person on the mauna," said Johnston.

But most of it seemed to be speculation — and there’s been a lot of it going around.

State Sen. Kai Kahele of Hilo says he drove to Mauna Kea late Sunday night after getting off Air National Guard duty to see for himself. He says there were no road blocks and he passed one police officer.

“All this talk of the National Guard and the military — I’m at drill weekend. I don’t hear or see nothing,” said Kahele.

"I just found all of that just deeply concerning on social media. I just cannot see the state of Hawaii doing that," he added.

Leaders at Puuhonua o Puuhuluhulu put out an alert Friday that "TMT will be meeting with State and County officials this Sunday to coordinate their attack on peaceful and nonviolent protectors at Maunakea."

The Attorney General's office issued a statement saying any law enforcement action to address such illegal behavior is not an 'attack.'

“There’s a risk that it attracts and energizes people who are not reasonable and not well intentioned,” it added.

Kahele says the state should have worked harder to quash to the rumors.

“You could almost call it Cyber warfare where information is being leaked,” he said.

When asked if TMT met with the Governor this past weekend, TMT said no such meeting took place.

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