(BIVN) – In a Thursday afternoon news conference, the state defended its decision to close the Saddle Road the day before, and reiterated that the number one priority is safety, as the scheduled start of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea entered its 4th day.
Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources Senior Communications Manager Dan Dennison spoke to media on the closed Mauna Kea Access Road.
The State’s Joint Information Center provided the following update:
Safety remains the state’s number one priority as law enforcement continues to plan and prepare for the movement of construction equipment up the mountain.
At its peak, there were an estimated 600 people in the area and around the intersection of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (formerly known as Saddle Road) and Mauna Kea Access Road.
There were no arrests or injuries reported today.
The Daniel K. Inouye Highway (DKI) was open today but foot traffic beyond the cattle guard on Mauna Kea Access Road (about an ⅛ mile from the intersection) is now restricted, a decision related to the governorʻs emergency proclamation issued Wednesday. The proclamation gives law enforcement increased flexibility and authority to close more areas and restrict access on Mauna Kea to ensure public safety.
There were a total of 34 individuals arrested, cited and released Wednesday for obstructing government operations, a misdemeanor. Initially, 33 arrests were reported. The names of the arrested individuals will be released when the officers involved are able to file their reports, which may be after the deployment is completed.
There is a lot of misinformation on social media regarding the protest so we ask the public to please beware of unverified information. For example, there were claims that the state closed DKI Highway without any justification when in fact the highway was closed for safety reasons after it was obstructed with people and vehicles during the protest.
The state commends law enforcement for showing great restraint Wednesday when a large crowd of protesters obstructed DKI Highway leading to its closure. The decision to de-escalate the situation and safely re-open the highway was the correct one.
Please continue to drive carefully if you are in the area and expect increased traffic and possible delays.