Mauna Kea Protests Police Presence Backed by Appeals Court

February 3, 2021

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — A Hawaii appellate court has ruled that Hawaii County’s police chief was within his authority when he requested help from police in other counties during the 2019 protests over the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The state Intermediate Court of Appeals issued an opinion last week affirming the actions of Chief Paul Ferreira took to maintain order during the demonstrations that blocked an access road to Mauna Kea, West Hawaii Today reported.

Opponents said the Thirty Meter Telescope project on the state’s highest peak, which has since stalled, would desecrate land considered sacred by Native Hawaiians.

Protesters blocked the 6.27-mile (10-kilometer) road to the summit in their demonstration against the project from July through December 2019.

The appellate court’s opinion said officers from the Honolulu and Maui police departments were at the demonstrations at Ferreira’s request and did not violate Hawaii statutes regarding police pursuing investigations in other counties.

About 60 Honolulu police officers and an unknown number of Maui officers joined the operation to maintain order during the protest.

Increased traffic enforcement on Daniel K. Inouye Highway by officers assigned to the blockade and encampment at the access road resulted in 8,234 citations and 78 people arrested for 143 offenses.

Hawaii County accepted $5.3 million from the state as reimbursement for police overtime costs.

Plaintiff E. Kalani Flores claimed in a July 2019 court filing that his rights as a Native Hawaiian to go up the mountain to conduct cultural practices were infringed upon by the police presence.

The complaint named Ferreira, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard and Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu as defendants.

Peter Olson, an attorney representing Flores, said an appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court is likely.

Hawaii County Deputy Corporation Counsel Kaena Horowitz said the appellate court ruling confirmed Ferreira acted properly.

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