MAUNA KEA— Police have issued about 100 tickets daily since last week for parking and traffic violations near the site of a protest against the construction of another telescope on Hawaii's tallest mountain.
Big Island officers are not targeting protesters of the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea, but are increasing enforcement to maintain safety, police Maj. Sam Jelsma told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser .
"There is increased traffic up here due to the protest movement," Jelsma said. "Obviously, with people camping out on the side of the road, there is a need for increased police presence, which will make things safer."
Protesters have been near the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the road to the summit since mid-July. They want to block work on the $1.4 billion telescope, which demonstrators fear will further harm a summit many Native Hawaiians consider sacred.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, visited the protest site Monday and toured the tent encampment at the base of the Mauna Kea Access Road.
Police are also setting up checkpoints for drunken driving and seat belt enforcement, Jelsma said. State Department of Transportation officials placed signs Monday prohibiting parking, stopping and unloading near the intersection.
Kaho'okahi Kanuha, a demonstration leader, said protesters do feel targeted by police. A better way to address safety concerns would be to install more barricades to separate pedestrians and parked cars from passing traffic, Kanuha said.
"To threaten people with tickets and fines and towing under the premise of safety is something that I find a little disingenuous," Kanuha said.
Andre Perez, another protest leader, said police have not directly communicated with demonstration leaders any specific changes that needed for parking arrangements.