The Hawaiian state government today finally gave the go-ahead for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), sending close to 100 police officers to the mountain to remove four structures built by protesters to block construction.
[Democratic government David] Ige said he believes the state now has sufficient legal basis for construction to go more smoothly than it did following the telescope’s 2014 groundbreaking. After significant protests in 2014 and 2015, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that a 2011 permit from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources was invalid after finding the Land Board violated due process rights of project opponents by voting before the first contested case was held.
However, the Supreme Court approved an amended permit late last year, allowing the project to seek a notice to proceed. The conditions of the amended permit state that the TMT will be the last telescope to be built on Maunakea and that five other telescopes at the summit will be decommissioned and removed.
Despite Ige’s confidence in the process, opponents are preparing for further protests. Kanuha said he intends to “try and stop it the same way we did the first time.”
“This is about more than the mountain, this is about how we treat land and natural resources in Hawaii,” Kanuha said. “If we allow this to happen, we can kiss goodbye all we hold precious in Hawaii. It’s just a matter of time.”
Another protester, Lakea Trask, warned of an inevitable conflict. “The state is declaring war on Hawaiians,” said Trask, who was arrested and charged with trespassing during the 2015 protests. “The state is now using TMT to declare war, an all-out war on Hawaiians.”
First, this is the second time the state has approved this project, which followed the law both the first time and now. Second, the protests that stopped construction in 2014 and 2015 were not “significant” but were led by a very small number of people. Third, those same protesters, as quoted above, probably intend to repeat their actions once construction resumes this summer. If so, expect violence. These people know they will not be seriously punished for breaking the law, and will take advantage of this.
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