(BIVN) – The first arrest of 2019 related to the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea occurred early Thursday morning.
Kahoʻohaki Kanuha, arrested twice before on the mountain, was taken into custody by police as law enforcement dismantled four structures on Mauna Kea in a pre-dawn action. The action came just hours before the state announced that the Department of Land and Natural Resources has issued a notice to proceed for the Thirty Meter Telescope project.
Kanuha said he was trying to access the proposed TMT site “so that I could document and record what was happening,” he said outside the Hilo police station after he was released.
“At around 3:05 this morning, I noticed some vehicles going up the mauna that looked like vehicles that would be the ones that would assist in performing what we had heard would be performed,” Kanuha said, “and so I follow them up the Mauna and kind of waited around to see what was happening. From where I was, I could see a bunch of cars making its way up. So I decided to go up to the top of the mauna to be there. When I was up there, I got a call that Hale Kukiaʻimauna was being taken down and dismantled. At which point I approached the officers at the entrance to the proposed TMT site. I began to communicate with them, asked them what was going on. Like normal, they weren’t being very clear about what they’re doing there.”
Kanuha said the police told him they were there for safety. “And that was it,” he said. “After some certain conversations they were able to relay to me that they were actually there to perform – or allow for the performance of – what they’re calling a government operation. This operation was to destroy, dismantle and ultimately desecrate cultural religious structures up on Mauna Kea, including the two ʻahu that were built in 2015 on what is now the proposed TMT site.”
According to the State of Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court “ruled that the two ʻahu on the TMT site did not constitute a traditional or customary right or practice, and they were removed with guidance from Native Hawaiian cultural advisors.” The structures had to be removed “so construction of the telescope can begin safely.”
Kanuha says he believes the officers were committing the crime of desecration. “That’s what I was trying to make aware to them,” he said. “I was asking them over and over if they were aware that a crime was gonna be committed and if they had any intentions to prevent that crime from being committed. They expressed to me that there was no crime that was gonna be committed. They were simply there to do a government operation. When I tried to have them acknowledge what that operation was and that it was, in fact, to destroy the ʻahu, of course they never confirmed that.”
“So I made an attempt to access the site,” Kanuha said, “simply so I could record what was happening so that the world could see what the state of Hawaiʻi does to Hawaiians, what the state of Hawaiʻi thinks about Hawaiians, what the state of Hawaiʻi thinks about Hawaiian culture, what the state of Hawaiʻi thinks about Hawaiian religion, what the state of Hawaiʻi thinks about Hawaiian spirituality and beliefs. And what they think about that is absolutely nothing.”
“They determined that between all of these different law enforcement agencies,” Kanuha said, “that they were going to perform something similar to a drug raid in the middle of the night – three o’clock, four o’clock in the morning – on Mauna Kea, to simply to destroy ʻahu.”