(BIVN) – “There is no sweep planned for 8 p.m. this evening,” Governor David Ige told media during a Sunday news conference on Oʻahu. “There’s no sweeps planned at this point.”
The governor spent much of his time at the conference podium trying to dispel the rumor that police would be clearing out the Puʻuhonua at Puʻu Huluhulu before the Monday start to construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.
“I respect the right to peaceful protest,” the Governor told the media. “This means there’s no intention to intervene by law enforcement on any activity, as long as participants are behaving in a lawful manner, on open public lands, and abiding by lawful instructions from any law enforcement officers.”
“We did become aware by the organizers and leaders of a vigil, a 12 hour vigil, that started at 6 a.m. this morning and would be continuing to 6 p.m. this evening,” Governor Ige said.
Hundreds gathered at Puʻu Huluhulu for the Sunday vigil “to cleanse, clear, and protect Mauna a Wākea,” organizers said.
“We are peaceful, non-violent cultural and spiritual practitioners who are exercising our right to gather and to pule for our sacred mauna,” said Noenoe Wong-Wilson, the Executive Director of the Lālākea Foundation, in a media release. “We call on supporters in Hawaiʻi and around the world to join us in our prayers to protect Mauna Kea from further desecration. Under threat of violence and loss of our rights to gather and worship, we stand strong in our commitment to protect Mauna Kea.”
On Sunday, the governor heard a firestorm of criticism based on worries that state law enforcement would raid Puʻu Huluhulu, perhaps during the vigil, to make way for construction vehicles early Monday morning.
Among those issuing demands was Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chair Colette Machado and Trustee Dan Ahuna, who stated: “We urge state officials to recognize Puʻuhonua Puʻuhuluhulu as a safe place for peaceful assembly and protest by OHA beneficiaries and others who have long voiced concerns about the state’s decades-long mismanagement of Maunakea.”
“We continue to implore and demand that the state immediately hold all TMT construction activities until it takes further steps to ensure the safety of OHA beneficiaries and the public,” the OHA Trustees said. “For the last few months, there has been growing concern within the Native Hawaiian community that the state’s longstanding mismanagement of Maunakea, exasperated now with the government’s single-minded determination to force the construction of TMT regardless of all consequences, would lead to conflict that will ultimately result in physical harm to our beneficiaries who want nothing more than to protect one of our most sacred places.”
The Royal Order of Kamehameha I, HULI, Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge-UHMānoa, Hui Aloha ʻĀina, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, Mauna Kea Hui and Nā Wahine ʻĀpapalani issued a joint statement, in which they pledged to “protect all people gathered peacefully at Pu‘uhonua O Puʻuhuluhulu.”
Even Maui Councilmember Tamara Paltin issued an urgent appeal, asking University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner to put a hold on moving forward with the construction of the TMT.
“As construction begins, our number one priority is keeping our community safe,” the governor said.
“I know that there’s been rumors that we’re sweeping Mauna Kea this evening at 8 p.m.,” the governor said. “I can let you know that there’s no planned sweep about Mauna Kea. We are concerned that these false rumors and speculation about state law enforcement activities creates anxiety in our community. We just really want to remind people that… the men and women in law enforcement are your neighbors.”
During the vigil, those assembled at Puʻu Huluhulu were visited by Mayor Harry Kim, who said the puʻuhounua was established in a “very appropriate place” and told the organizers that they would be allowed to carry on their vigil.
“They had requested specifically for a 12-hour vigil,” Governor Ige told media on Oʻahu, “and certainly that would not interfere with any of the activities that would be involved with the construction. But that’s all that they requested, so that’s what we responded to.”