Ku’ulei Gante was still lying in the road as a convoy carrying wind turbine parts passed just feet behind her and a group of Honolulu police officers Sunday night.
Gante was one of at 18 people who were either arrested or cited Sunday night after remaining in a roadway in Kalaeloa to block the delivery of parts for the Na Pua Makani wind farm in Kahuku. The arrests bring the total to more than 160 since protests against the wind farm began a month ago.
The protesters have never been successful in stopping the deliveries, which occur most nights except for Fridays and Saturdays. At first, the protesters, some of whom taped their arms into barricades set up along Honua Street, seemed to have delayed police enough that the trucks would have to turn around or risk driving on state highways after their permitted time.
But Honolulu police formed a circle around Gante, and the trucks began moving about 3:30 a.m. to make their way to Kahuku, more than four hours after the operation began.
“We gave them a tough run tonight,” Kaukaohu Wahilani, one of the leaders of the protest movement on the Leeward Coast, told a weary crowd that stayed to the end. “We gave them a run.”
There have been almost nightly demonstrations in both Kalaeloa and Kahuku against Na Pua Makani, the wind farm proposed by AES Corp. Work has already begun on the 568-foot tall wind turbines near the Kahuku Agriculture Park.
On Sunday, it took police more than four hours to clear the road enough for trucks to squeeze through. That’s almost twice as long as they’ve typically taken to clear the roads. Barricades were set up earlier in the day Sunday in an effort to deter the activists from entering the road.
That backfired when the protesters, who call themselves the kiai, or protectors, learned that they can hamper HPD’s efforts by taping their arms through holes in the barricades. Police spent over an hour cutting through the barricade to remove just one demonstrator.
Seventeen were arrested for disobeying a police officer, while another individual was arrested for obstructing government operations, according to an email from HPD spokeswoman Sarah Yoro. Bail ranged from $100 to $1,000.
The atmosphere was mostly calm Sunday night. The crowd of several hundred cried, chanted and sang as police moved in to arrest the demonstrators.
Police instructed the crowd to clear the road about 10:50 p.m., a standard practice each night of the protests. About 17 remained, including a group of four women who continued performing a hula as officers closed around.
“I need you to sing,” Nanipua Peterson told the crowd as she continued dancing to evade police. “If we got to do this all night long, we’ll do this all night long.”
Elijah McShane, another protester who was sitting on the ground, told the crowd of several hundred to register to vote as he was carried to a waiting police van.
As the night dragged on, the crowd chanted for the wind turbine delivery to be cancelled.
That principle was tested Thursday after police arrested 26, then used bikes to shove the remaining crowds further back.
In a Friday news conference, Honolulu Police Department Deputy Chief John McCarthy criticized the protesters, saying they verbally, and in some instances physically, harassed officers. The same day, a group of protesters held a similar news conference to say it was the officers who acted aggressively first, by using their bikes to push them.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard has previously said that more than 230 officers have been assisting in the delivery of wind turbine parts.
AES also has hired a number of special duty officers to help with the equipment delivery.
Neither the company nor HPD have responded to Civil Beat’s questions regarding the special duty officers or the costs to the public of the turbine deliveries.
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Blaze Lovell is spending a year as a local investigations fellow with The New York Times. He was previously a reporter for Civil Beat. Born and raised on Oahu, Lovell is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.