Telescope protest

WAILUKU – Twenty people were arrested in a raucous crowd of more than 200 protesters late Thursday night and early Friday morning at the Central Maui Baseyard, after they tried stopping a convoy of parts for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope from being delivered to the summit of Haleakala.

Connecting themselves with PVC pipes, tape and chains placed over their arms, the protesters banded together in front of the baseyard gate and laid down on the ground to prevent three wide-load trucks carrying telescope equipment from exiting. Protesters shouted, chanted, sang and blew conch shells as they stood toe-to-toe with roughly 40 police officers that descended upon the protest around 10 p.m.

When asking one protester laying down on the asphalt in front of police what her name was, she replied: “My first name is Aloha Aina and my last name is Hawaiian National.”

“I believe in Aloha Aina – that it can change the world and we start from our people,” she shouted.

Police used a hacksaw to cut through the PVC pipes and carried most individuals to white vans parked in the median of Mokulele Highway. Police stood side-by-side in a line across the entrance of the baseyard and moved the crowd back to provide space for officers separating the conjoined protesters.

Arrested protesters included those who teach at the University of Hawaii Maui College, college students and concerned citizens. As each of them was carried away by police, the crowd screamed “auwe,” a term for deep sadness in the Native Hawaiian language. Protesters also yelled ” ‘oia’i’o,” or truth, and “ku kia’i mauna,” which means protectors of the mountain.

Many in the crowd took cellphone video of the arrests and shouted “shame on you” at police and telescope officials at the scene. Telescope officials had cars parked at the entrance of the baseyard and were criticized by protesters before leaving after midnight Thursday.

Once the protesters were cleared, the convoy proceeded on Mokulele Highway at about 12:45 a.m. Friday.

Maui police said in a statement Friday afternoon: “Officers made every attempt to have the demonstrators cooperate and clear the way for the tractor trailers to gain access onto the roadway, however, they were met with opposition.”

Among the 20, 13 were men and seven were women, police said.

Protesters showed up at Wailuku District Court on Friday afternoon to show their support, and some made initial court appearances. They said they allowed themselves to get arrested because they “felt compelled” to do so, and at least one said the protesters “had no choice.”

“As Native Hawaiians, we are forced to do whatever is necessary to protect cultural integrity and affirm our humanity and human rights,” said Kaleikoa Kaeo, who was arrested Thursday night and made his initial appearance in District Court on Friday afternoon in a packed courtroom. Kaeo, who teaches at UH-Maui College, was released on his own recognizance.

Kaeo was one of a handful of protesters who made initial appearances on charges, including refusal to provide ingress or egress and disorderly conduct, which are both petty misdemeanors, and failure to disperse, a misdemeanor. Most of those who appeared in court were told to stay away from the Central Maui Baseyard and were released on their own recognizance, court records show. They were provided with further court dates and may ask for a jury trial.

A handful of protesters were bailed out before the court hearing. Protesters who were arrested said that most of those who were charged were those who laid in the path of the convoy.

Kiope Raymond was arrested and bailed out before the court hearing, along with his wife, Lisa Schattenburg Raymond. The two were at the courthouse showing their support. They both teach at UH-Maui College.

Kiope Raymond is president of Kilakila ‘O Haleakala, the citizens’ group that challenged the $300 million telescope project in court in 2012 over the state issuing the project a conservation district use permit. Asked why his protest resulted in an arrest, Kiope Raymond said: “We felt compelled to show our support.”

The protest shows that “we can make a difference,” he said.

The 17 other protesters who were arrested were: Cameron Ahia, 43, of Waihee; Hiilei Aiwohi-Kolt, 19, of Wailuku; Kaena Elaban, 27, of Pukalani; Kristen Enriquez, 26, of Kihei; Wade Homes, 40, of Kihei; Jonathan Irvine, 31, of Waiehu; Kahala Johnson, 29, of Waiehu; Sean George, 27, of Honolulu; Pohai Kaikala, 20, of Pukalani; Dustin Kaleiopu, 18, of Lahaina; Christopher Kasak, 37, of Makawao; Christopher Nakahashi, 31, of Haiku; David Prais, 37, of Wailuku; Alexander Quintana, 25, of Wailuku; Sunny Savage-Luskin, 38, of Haiku; Jordan Takakura-Puha, 24, of Paia; Tiare Lawrence, 33, of Makawao.

Despite the protest, the convoy made it up to Haleakala, with the trucks reaching the summit around 1 p.m. Friday, an official with Haleakala National Park said. Crater Road, which had been closed for the convoy, re-opened shortly after, officials said.

There were no reports of protests or incidents in Haleakala National Park on Friday, park officials said.

Telescope officials said everything arrived safely at Haleakala.

“We are grateful that law enforcement authorities were able to ensure the safety of everyone,” an email statement said.

Officials added that the telescope began with a ground survey over a decade ago and that the project made concerted efforts to identify and mitigate cultural and environmental impacts associated with the world’s most powerful solar telescope.

“Throughout the DKIST planning process and initial construction, DKIST consulted local officials, Native Hawaiians and other stakeholders to ensure the project respected views and adjusted plans as appropriate,” the statement said.

It adds that like those that protest our facility, “we too respect and value our planet.”

“It is our hope that we can work together, respectful of one another’s differences and mutually revere these gifts from nature.”

Kaeo said that was the largest police presence on Maui that he has seen.

“MPD were very professional. They did their job. We did our job,” Kaeo said outside of court.

This was the second time that protesters rallied as a convoy was scheduled to haul materials to the summit. In June, the protesters were successful in halting the delivery, with telescope officials saying they were not prepared for a protest.

Protesters allege that the construction is going on without the proper and legal approval of the community.

* Staff Writer Lila Fujimoto contributed to this report. Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com and Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.