Tensions high on Mauna Kea as the State removed an unpermitted structure
Tensions were high on Mauna Kea Friday morning as the state removed an unpermitted structure built near the base camp for kiai or protectors of the mountain.
They built the small building last week near the Mauna Kea Access Road and called it a learning center. But because the land is owned by the state's Department of Hawaiian Homelands and built without a permit, officials say it needs to come down.
DHHL posted a "notice to vacate" on Wednesday to those on the property and to the person who organized the construction.
"When you look at any structure. There is a strict permitting process that it is safe and meets all the building codes. Obviously none of that occurred in this structure so we felt that we need to remove it," Gov. David Ige, said.
He also said the structure presents health, safety and environmental concerns.
But not everyone complied before the demolition. Two men were arrested before it was taken down. They were taken to Hilo and will be charged with obstruction of a governmental operation.
"There were people that were standing on the porch of the structure. There were people in the vicinity where the work was about to take place. Most of the individuals complied with the order and left the structure and allowed the crews to begin. Two individuals did not," Clare Connors, Hawaii Attorney General, said.
As crews work to tear down the building, a heightened moment was when a worker cut through one of two Hawaiian flags on the structure.
"The officers had to cut through the flag in order to get through the building because all windows blacked out and all covered and no way for law enforcement to see inside the building to see if anyone is in there and if it's safe to take down," Ed Sniffen, Hawaii Department of Transportation Highways Division deputy director, said.
Connors says there was no intent to desecrate the flag.
"It was not purposeful. It was the only option that the placement of the flag allowed law enforcement," she said.
She said removal of the other flag that's above the structure was handled with care. Both were returned to the protectors.
Demonstrators say they remain united and committed to protect the tallest mountain in the world.
They also said:
"We condemn every example of the state of Hawai'i's selective enforcement of the law, especially as it is currently targeting protectors. Undeterred by today's actions of the state, all in the pu'uhonua remain united and committed to the protection of Maunakea in Kapu Aloha."