Deadline arrives for TMT protesters to remove structures at Mauna Kea

Day four of the TMT protests.
Day four of the TMT protests.
Published: Dec. 26, 2019 at 6:12 AM HST
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MAUNA KEA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thursday marks the deadline that was reportedly set by the state for Thirty Meter Telescope protesters to remove their structures at Mauna Kea, but it’s still not clear what will happen.

TMT opponents said the state Land Department officers told them they have until Dec. 26 to start removing their structures — including the “kupuna” tent — at Mauna Kea, but they say haven’t made a decision on what they’ll do ultimately.

The growing camp at the base of Mauna Kea has been the focal point of protests on the mountain.

Last week, the state said the telescope project had no plans to proceed with construction at this time, so law enforcement officers were being removed from the site. However, TMT officials said the reason they’re not moving ahead is that the state and county have “not demonstrated that they are able to provide safe, sustained access to Mauna Kea for everyone.”

Kahookahi Kanuha, a leader of the TMT opposition, said protesters believe the state's withdrawal is a "tactic ... to create this picture, this facade reality, that TMT is no longer a threat to Mauna Kea."

The plan to pull state law enforcement from the mountain comes as costs for tackling the situation continue to mount ― along with frustrations amid the project's supporters. Since the standoff started, the government has spent $15 million for law enforcement and supplies to deal with the situation.

Protesters of the TMT project have remained at the base of Mauna Kea for more than five months, standing their ground in opposition of the project. They say the 18-story, $1.4 billion telescope will desecrate Mauna Kea, which they consider as sacred, and have garnered support for their cause from around the globe.

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