The Hawaii Attorney General has issued a statement invalidating the state's emergency rule intended to suppress protestors of the Thirty Meter Telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea.
A Hawaii judge issued a statement on Friday that invalidated the state’s emergency rule that was evoked to quell protests surrounding the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the sacred mountain of Mauna Kea. According to a report from the Washington Post, the emergency rule was being used to keep protestors away from the construction site at the top of the mountain on the Big Island.
The state Attorney General Douglas Chin and state Board of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case issued a joint statement saying that the state of Hawaii would adhere to the court’s decision to invalidate the emergency rule. They reminded visitors to Mauna Kea that the decision did not mean it was now legal to block roads by standing in them or placing obstructions in the way of vehicles. This will remain illegal, and the law against blocking the road will continue to be enforced on the mountain.
According to David Kauila Kopper, the attorney that filed the original suit against the state’s emergency rule on behalf of a resident that wished to protest the telescope’s construction, the court made the right decision. Kopper argued that the state’s adoption of the rule to prevent protests surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope’s construction was illegal, and only served to infringe on the peoples’ rights to practice their culture and right to public expression. Kopper works with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.
After debates grew particularly tense earlier this summer in a public meeting, the state government’s land board approved the emergency rule to prevent protestors from gathering on the mountain. Protestors camped at various locations on Mauna Kea in hopes of disrupting the construction process, which has been indefinitely stalled since April.
The emergency rule prohibited people from coming within a mile of the Mauna Kea access road between the hours of 10 pm and 4 am, unless that person was in a moving vehicle. The rule barred people from camping and possessing sleeping bags, portable stoves, tents, and propane burners on the premises.
The Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory announced last month that they plan to move forward with the telescope’s construction, which they project will be finished in 2024. Since the protest began, officials working with the observatory reported that the design and building of certain components of the telescope have continued following the halt of land clearing at the build site.
A statement from the governor David Y. Ige on July 14 read, “Today I signed the Land Board’s emergency rule limiting usage of the road between the hours of 10 pm and 4 am. The rule is in effect for 120 days only and gives the state an additional tool to keep the road safe for all. My administration believes firmly in the right of free expression. At the same time we cannot let some people put others at risk of harm or property damage. This temporary rule helps strike that balance. I respectfully ask everyone using the road to exercise caution and obey the law.”
Ige reported on Friday, following the reversal of the rule, “Today the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit, State of Hawaii, granted a partial motion for summary judgment that has the effect of invalidating the Mauna Kea emergency rule.
Attorney General Chin and Chair Case released the following statement in response: “The State acknowledges the Court’s decision and will abide by it. We remind people traveling to Mauna Kea that even in light of today’s ruling existing laws and rules remain. It is always illegal to block the road. This includes standing in the road or placing obstructions in the road. These laws will continue to be enforced.””
The telescope is said to be sited on a land considered sacred by native Hawaiians, and would disturb the peace at the top of Mauna Kea. The summit is far away from any urban light pollution, making it an ideal site for an observatory.