(BIVN) – The state recorded video on Friday of the morning raid on the unpermitted building near Puʻuhuluhulu and later shared the footage with media. However, livestreams of the event by the kiaʻi, who are holding space in the area in opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope project, had already been watched by tens of thousands over social media.
The state video was provided by the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources. It begins with the building – a planned keiki library and learning center on Hawaiian Home Lands – already surrounded by law enforcement. Heavy machinery is shown moving into the area. An officer is lifted to the roof of the structure in order to carefully remove a flag.
After that, a bulldozer knocks over the structure and a team of workers begin to cut and haul away the debris.
The state said that “prompt removal was deemed necessary as the structure posed serious health and safety concerns related to fire protection and structural integrity.”
Earlier moments of the enforcement action were missing from the DLNR video record. That includes the arrest of two men, and the cutting on a Hawaiian flag as police tried to open up a barricaded door.
Those moments were captured in video livestreamed by Ikaika Marzo, one of the opponents of the TMT project who has camped in the area as a part of the effort to hold the base of the Mauna Kea Access Road. Two different Naʻau News Now livestreams were also watched over 100,000 times (combined).
Marzo’s view of the Hawaiian flag being cut by law enforcement went viral, and was one of the most widely discussed moments of Friday’s law enforcement action.
“Sad that our flag, our flag was on the door,” commented Marzo during the video, appearing emotional. “All you have to do is take down the flag, and saw down the door. But instead he like…. he like saw right through the flag.”
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs joined the outrage, and issued a statement saying that the sawing of the Hawaiian flag was “wholly unnecessary” and “deeply troubling, and further adds to the trauma of the Native Hawaiian people and could have escalated an already tense situation.”
“The officers had to cut through the flag in order to get through the building because all the windows were blacked out,” said State Highways director Ed Sniffen during a Friday press conference on Oʻahu. “There was no way for our law enforcement to see inside the building to see if anybody was there or if it was safe to take down.”
After Mayor Harry Kim’s September 3 complaint about the unpermitted structure to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands chair William Aila, DHHL posted a Notice to Vacate on Sept. 4, 2019, “both on the property and to the individual who organized the erection of the structure,” the state said.
Removal efforts were conducted by Department of Transportation personnel, at the request of DHHL, in a process that took approximately four hours.
“With the assistance of DOT personnel, we were able to accomplish this task quickly and efficiently,” said Aila. “DHHL will be reimbursing our partners for this work.”
“Law enforcement has deliberately refrained from escalating its approach to the current protest because it was important to provide some meaningful space and time for all of us to find a peaceful resolution to this situation,” said Governor David Ige. “However, this type of permanent structure erected without DHHL permission, and without being regulated or inspected in any way, cannot be allowed. The safety risk is too great.”
Now, TMT opponents are preparing for what is next. The Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu put out an urgent message “to all of our Kia’i Mauna,” saying:
After 56 days of peacefully protecting Maunakea and holding off the TMT, we have received information from multiple sources that has given us reason to strongly believe that law enforcement action to clear Pu’uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu and the Maunakea Access Road for TMT construction is imminent. Law enforcement action may begin as early as predawn Monday morning, and the Saddle Road highway may be closed as early as Sunday night, locking it down and blocking kia’i out.
For operational security purposes, the state has not announced its plans.