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Protesters brace for more law enforcement action at Mauna Kea

TMT protesters hold briefing on Mauna Kea situation.

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Friday were concerned that a larger presence of law enforcement officers would move in to Mauna Kea, but there had been no indication from authorities so far that any officers were in the area yet.

Activists say they are still preparing, though, for the possibility of swarms of law enforcement and even the potential use of excessive force.

“Today, my heart is very heavy, and it’s very heavy because we understand from very reliable sources that the governor and attorney general have authorized the use of excessive force to remove us from the site today,” said Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, who has been at the access road for days.

Starting Friday, no one is allowed past the cattle guard up Mauna Kea by foot or vehicle, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said. The new restriction, however, has been a source of contention for opponents, especially the activists who want to go up the mountain for cultural or religious purposes.

“We have now been denied complete access even though we requested only one van for cultural purposes and that was denied twice when we asked for that in our negotiation,” Wong-Wilson said.

Tensions have been growing over the past few days due in large part by the governor’s emergency proclamation and law enforcement officers converging on Mauna Kea and arresting 34 people for blocking the access road to the summit on Wednesday.

Despite the arrests, leaders of the growing TMT protest say they’re not going anywhere and claimed the governor’s emergency proclamation for the mountain is an “abuse of power.”

“Calling out the National Guard is an insult to Hawaiians,” said Native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte, speaking at a news conference Thursday morning. “This mountain is united. We cannot get a governor who is abusing powers take it away from us. This is an issue that goes out to all Hawaiians."

Ritte was among 34 people ― all but one of whom were kupuna ― arrested Wednesday at protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope planned for Mauna Kea’s summit.

Read more at Hawaii News Now