MAUNAKEA — The group of eight protesters who had chained themselves to a cattle guard on Maunakea Access Road removed the chains this afternoon after being told they would not be arrested today.
Protest leader Kahookahi Kanuha said law enforcement had agreed not to arrest the eight — or any of the hundreds of others who blocked the road Monday.
Kanuha described the decision as a victory for the protesters. Earlier today, protesters were informed to expect arrests, and protest leaders repeatedly told supporters what to expect and how to behave during the arrests.
Some protesters said they intended to leave the mountain today and would return another day, but others vowed to remain through the night at the “safe haven” set up by protesters at Puu Huluhulu across from the beginning of the access road.
Hundreds of people were still at the site as of 2:30 today.
UPDATED 11:33 a.m.
State Division of Natural Resources enforcement chief Jason Redulla said “for the safety of the public … the Department of Transportation, working with law enforcement, will begin installing concrete barriers on the shoulder of the (Daniel K. Inouye Highway) to create a safety buffer between people and vehicle traffic.
Redulla said that because of the amount of people currently present at and near the intersection of the highway, also known as Saddle Road, and Maunakea Access Road, coupled with people driving at highway speeds, a potentially unsafe situation exists.
He said the barriers should be in place within the next few hours.
Redulla said no arrests of protesters have occurred at this point, and there are still people chained to a metal cattle guard on Maunakea Access Road.
UPDATED 10:48 a.m.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim urged the community today to “drive with caution and aloha” while traveling on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway near the Maunakea Access Road where opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope are protesting.
Kim said the main mission of the Hawaii Police Department is to keep the people safe and to maintain a safe flow of traffic on the highway.
“We want to keep this as peaceful as possible, and the Hawaii Police Department is asking for your help to keep the (highway) open and safe for everybody,” Kim said. “We are all ‘ohana of this island community.”
Kim also expressed appreciation for the way the protesters are conducting themselves at the Puu Huluhulu site across from the beginning of the access road.
“The main thing is to respect each other, and to keep everyone safe and in peace,” Kim said.
UPDATED: 9:07 a.m.
Police are reportedly preparing to clear protesters off the Maunakea Access Road soon.
Pua Case, one of the leaders of the protest movement, addressed the crowd of protesters to let them know arrests are coming.
She urged younger protesters not to block police from getting access to a large group of kupuna who are blocking the road and intend to be arrested.
Earlier, protest leader Kahookahi Kanuha told police: “We are committed to nonviolence and peaceful action. We’re steadfast on that. And we’re not going to allow anybody to jeopardize what we’re trying to do.”
Protesters have been told that police do not intend to clear a “safe haven” set up across the access road at Puu Huluhulu.
Hundreds of opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope are blocking the Maunakea Access Road this morning just off the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.
About 200 are lined up across the road, with hundreds more on each side of the road. Many are chanting, singing and sign-waving.
About a quarter mile up the road, about a dozen protesters have chained themselves to a cattle guard on the road.
A large group of law enforcement officers are present near the base of the access road, but no arrests have yet been confirmed. Police could be seen having conversations with protest leaders.
The Daniel K. Inouye Highway, Saddle Road, is currently open to traffic but police urge motorists to drive with caution as there are many people and vehicles along the side of the road near the access road.