BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Seven women and one man were arrested early Wednesday morning for allegedly violating the Board of Land and Natural Resources' emergency rule, which prohibits access in the overnight restricted area along Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road.
The Thirty Meter Telescope protesters, who say they're standing in protection of Mauna Kea as a sacred Native Hawaiian place, tell Hawaii News Now they were not camping, but holding vigil as they have been for the past 168 days when they were taken into custody by DLNR law enforcement around 1 a.m.
The following people were arrested:
- Bronson Kobayashi - 23, Hilo
- Sandy Kamaka - 46, Kailua-Kona
- Hawane Rios - 36, Kamuela
- Jennifer Leinaala Sleightholm - 41, Waikoloa
- Shanell Subica - 43, Kailua-Kona
- Kuuipo Freitas - 26, Kona
- Patricia Ikeda - 65, Captain Cook
- Ruth Aloua - 26, Kailua-Kona
Bail for Kobayashi was set at $1,000 due to being a repeat offender. Bail for all others was set at $250.
The rule that went into effect on July 14, 2015 prohibits anyone along Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road overnight between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Officials say the rule is intended to establish safe conditions on the mountain for protestors, observatory workers and visitors.
"All of those arrested were transported by the Hawaii County Police Department to Hilo for booking," said Dan Dennison, DLNR spokesman.
This is the second law enforcement action on Mauna Kea, since the enactment of the 120-day-long emergency rule. On July 31, 2015, six people received citations and seven people were arrested.
It's been nearly three months since TMT crews attempted to reach the summit of Mauna Kea to start construction. A TMT spokesperson confirmed Wednesday there are no legal grounds preventing the project from moving forward, but they're waiting while they continue to work with all the parties involved to determine the appropriate time to resume construction -- though no date has been set.
Sources tell Hawaii News Now TMT officials are waiting in hopes public outcry following months of protests and demonstrations will die down.
Legal experts believe it's a combination of that - and also a pending State Supreme Court decision on a challenge to the project's permitting process.
"I think it's nicely quiet right now, all things considered. And for me, I would hope it stays nice and quiet until the court has it's chance to render it's opinion, and I think that's going to happen sooner, rather than later," said David Callies, a University of Hawai'i at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law Professor.
Callies says if Justices rule due process was violated -- requiring TMT to apply for another permit, the project could be delayed years.
"I think probably that the TMT folks are hoping that they will get a positive opinion - decision - from the State Supreme Court and that if they do a lot of the protests will go away. I don't think they want to engage in something that's so explosive in the community and I think that they're being very cautious," Prof. Callies said.
When asked about TMT's construction schedule, Dr. Michael Bolte of the TMT International Observatory Board issued the following statement to Hawaii News Now: "While it may take some additional time, we remain committed to working with all stakeholders in Hawaii to integrate science and culture, provide the best possible stewardship of the mountain, provide local educational opportunities and enable this global scientific endeavor. We still do not have a date for the restart of construction on Maunakea, but work continues at each of our partner institutions in California, Canada, China, Japan and India."
Callies says TMT's decision to wait is smart.
"They have a lot of time to construct a very big telescope and it's not like they're under a particular deadline, so they can afford to wait. And I think that they are very wisely backing off and avoiding the confrontation until this matter plays out - at least at this round - in court," Callies explained.
Even under an expedited process, a State Supreme Court decision is still expected to be months away.
In the meantime, a TMT spokesperson confirms construction, which was originally scheduled to start in April 2015 and take 8 years to complete -- would have meant the telescope would be operational by 2024. It's unclear what the new time frame is.
Sources indicate TMT's delay has cost the project roughly $30,000 a day.
Protesters, who call themselves Protectors, say they will not give up. Several of those who were arrested early Wednesday morning spent the day giving a tour on Mauna Kea to Trustees with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
OHA Trustees issued the following statement about Thursday's arrests: "The Office of Hawaiian Affairs strongly condemns this morning's arrests on Mauna Kea and again urges the state to cease further enforcement action and arrests until legal questions relating to the Mauna Kea emergency rules are properly resolved. It is our understanding that the individuals were arrested this morning while they were in the act of pule, or prayer. Native Hawaiians have constitutionally protected rights to reasonably engage in traditional and customary practices, and regulations cannot eliminate the exercise of these rights. We hope for a resolution that ensures our beneficiaries' rights are protected instead of violated."