Charges Against Mauna Kea Telescope Protesters Dropped

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang /
Thirty Meter Telescope
An artist's conception shows the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea's summit.TMT via AP

Charges have been dropped against the 14 people arrested and six people cited on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea for violations of the emergency rule after Hawaii’s Third Circuit Court invalidated the emergency rule, the Associated Press reports.

The controversial emergency rule was passed by the Hawaii State Board of Land and Natural Resources in July in response to protesters of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) who were keeping an around-the-clock vigil to block any attempts to begin construction. The emergency rule restricted being within a mile of the Mauna Kea access road after 10:00 p.m. and before 4:00 a.m., and it prohibited sleeping bags, tents, camping stoves, and propane burners.

"The State adopted an illegal rule to prevent opposition to the TMT at the expense of sincere cultural practices and public expression," said Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation attorney David Kauila Kopper who filed the lawsuit challenging the rule on behalf of E. Kalani Flores, in a statement.

“The State acknowledges the Court’s decision and will abide by it,” said State Attorney General Doug Chin and Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case in a statement. “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 Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) also issued a statement that camping in forest reserves and public hunting areas without a permit is still prohibited under Hawaii Administrative Rules, even without the emergency rule.

If built, the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be the largest and most advanced in the world. However, it faces opposition because many Native Hawaiians consider Mauna Kea sacred.