Kāko’o Haleakalā Protest: Police Force Questioned During Injury to Demonstrator
Law enforcement officers arrested a total of six individuals early Wednesday morning at the site of a demonstration held to protest ongoing construction of a telescope atop Haleakalā. One individual was also injured and was taken off site by paramedics during the incident for treatment at the hospital emergency room.
Arrested were: Jonathan Kaeo, 43, of Pukalani; Joseph Henderson, 28, of Pukalani; Samuel Kaeo, 51, of Pukalani; Monika Sipaite Kerr, 26, of Kahului; Shalia Henderson, 18, of Pukalani; and David Prais, 39, of Kahului.
Members of Kāko’o Haleakalā, the group that organized the demonstration, tell Maui Now that the injured man became unconscious at one point during an encounter with police, however Maui Now has been unable to confirm that report with authorities. (Video of the incident is posted above.)
Organizers tell Maui Now that the man was “screaming in pain,” while an officer allegedly “continued to keep his knee on his head.” The man, identified as David “Kai” Prais, then went unconscious and unresponsive shortly after, members of Kāko’o Haleakalā tell Maui Now. According to the organization, Kāko’o Haleakalā called an ambulance while they say police “just stood there and did not assist.”
Police issued a press release on Tuesday afternoon saying some of the protesters laid in the roadway in front of the large trucks and “threw themselves in front of the trailer tires in an attempt to halt the convoy.” After repeated warnings and requests by police to desist, officers say they had to forcibly remove the protesters from in front of the trucks and the trailer tires.
According to police, Prais was evaluated and released back into the custody of police.
The other five individuals–two women and three men–were transported to either the Wailuku or Kīhei police stations. All were released on their own personal recognizance and will have court appearances set.
DLNR officials say those arrested face charges that include disorderly conduct, obstructing a highway, failing to obey a police officer and/or resisting arrest.
Members of the group Kāko’o Haleakalā made a human chain using PVC piping, and lay on the ground, in an attempt to block a convoy transporting equipment for construction of the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope. Demonstrators say construction at the site is a desecration of land they consider to be sacred.
The telescope is designed to provide the sharpest views ever taken of the sun, allowing scientists to learn more about solar-terrestrial interactions.
Prior to the arrival of the convoy at the Kula and Old Haleakalā Highways, DLNR authorities say “police officers gently lifted the prone protesters to the highway’s shoulder to give the big rigs enough turning radius.”
More than 100 demonstrators gathered at the location for sign waving earlier in the evening, and an estimated 60 individuals remained past midnight to participate in what the DLNR called a “peaceful protest.” More than 60 law enforcement personnel from the Maui Police Department, and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement participated in the operation.
Law enforcement officers were observed carrying some of the demonstrators away from the road shortly before 4 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, and by 5 a.m., parts of the convoy had proceeded past the demonstration and the conflict had diminished from its earlier height.
The demonstration began at 6 p.m. fronting King Kekaulike High School and continued overnight as the convoy advanced slowly up the mountain at 2-5 mph.
The convoy was led by a half dozen police vehicles, and included four semi-trucks pulling wide-load trailers. The convoy reached the entrance to Haleakalā National Park at 6 a.m. and Science City near the summit between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m.
*Video: Injured demonstrator (1:20-1:30) Video credit: Kāko’o Haleakalā, Maui. 8.2.17
*Video: Kaleikoa Kaeo speaks at the Kāko’o Haleakalā demonstration on Maui. 8.1.17
Similar convoys were met with protests and more than 25 arrests in 2015 due to issues surrounding development atop Hawaiʻi’s highest mountains.
On July 30, 2015, 20 individuals were arrested for failure to disperse during a demonstration in which individuals attempted to block a planned convoy of vehicles scheduled to deliver equipment to the DKIST. Three weeks later, on Aug. 19, 2015, an additional eight people were arrested on Maui during a demonstration against the ongoing construction of the telescope.
The earlier protests were held at the Puʻunēnē baseyard, but Kahele Dukelow, one of the speakers at last night’s organizational meeting, said it was unclear where tonight’s convoy would originate, resulting in the selection of the Upcountry site as a demonstration site instead.
In October of 2016, the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court issued an opinion that supported continued construction.
The $340 million Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope or DKIST Project is located outside of park boundaries. Researchers say studies at the facility could provide clues on the origin and development of solar storms that can affect life on earth.
The convoy’s travel through the park is being allowed via Special Use Permit. The latest convoy was scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. on Tuesday and conclude by 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and was expected to result in the closure of Crater Road and Haleakalā National Park’s summit road for 16 hours.
Earlier on Tuesday, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced that it also will implement a temporary closure of unencumbered lands on Haleakalā to protect public safety during the equipment convoy.
According to DLNR officials, law enforcement officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, the National Park Service, and the Maui Police Department are collaborating to maintain safe transit for the convoy. Anyone found on closed unencumbered State land is subject to citation and/or arrest.