Protesters of the planned Thirty Meter Telescope agreed to move part of their encampment to the sides of Mauna Kea Access Road Thursday after an agreement from Mayor Harry Kim that the project would not attempt to move forward until February.
Kim announced in a press release Thursday morning that he would be working with the activists, who call themselves kiai, or protectors, to clear the road, which Gov. David Ige re-opened last week after ordering state law enforcement off the mountain.
Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, reading a letter from Kim to a noon gathering at Mauna Kea, said that there would be no movement of TMT for at least two months.
Kim requested that the protest camp move to the sides of Mauna Kea Access Road to allow public access, Wong-Wilson, one of the leaders of the protesters, said in a video posted to social media. The demonstrators cleared a path around the kupuna tent for the public to access the summit last week.
“It is hoped that during this peaceful time, communication between government officials, the astronomy community, community leaders and protectors will continue,” Kim says in the letter. “I, Mayor Kim, will continue to work with TMT to extend the two-month stand-down period if necessary.”
In the letter addressed to Wong-Wilson and the kupuna in the movement, Kim says that state and county law enforcement will not attempt to remove the encampments on the sides of the access road or across the street at the Pu’uhonua O Pu’uhuluhulu.
“We declare this a victory. A victory for protectors, a victory for all of us,” Wong-Wilson said, adding that the activists plan to continue working with Kim in the coming months.
The demonstrators don’t have plans to completely abandon the protest site, and Wong-Wilson said they plan to stay until TMT abandons its plans to build in Hawaii.
If there’s movement of parts again, Wong-Wilson said the activists “will be right back in the middle of the road.”
Mauna Kea Access Road will be closed until Saturday while the demonstrators work with the county to move structures from the road.
The announcement comes on the day the camp braced for possible action by the enforcement officers with the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
On Dec. 19, the same day Ige called for de-escalation on Mauna Kea, Lino Kamakau, a branch chief with DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, told the camp they had until Dec. 26 to clear out or face arrest.
The activists have occupied a strategic intersection on Mauna Kea Access Road and Daniel K. Inouye Highway since protests reignited in July.
The telescope is being developed by an international consortium including the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India and Canada’s National Research Council.
Scott Ishikawa, a TMT spokesperson, said no timeframe has been established for when the project could move forward and that project officials are continuing talks with community members.
TMT officials have previously said they want to avoid scenarios that could result in more arrests.
Read Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim’s letter below.
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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 email@example.com.