Gov. David Ige said Friday he and other state workers received death threats amid the heated debate over building a giant telescope on the nation’s highest summit.
Ige disclosed the dangers as he and his cabinet members held a news conference asking folks on all sides of this problem to be careful with their language.
Attorney General Clare Connors played a voicemail recording where an unidentified person told a state worker, “I hope you die.”
She showed reporters a social networking article offering a $5,000 reward for the identity of a law enforcement officer involved in last week’s demolition and removal of a tiny wooden house built by demonstrators near the camp in which they’re obstructing the telescope’s construction.
“I hope that we can all agree that putting a bounty on the head of law enforcement officer is disturbing and deeply concerning,” Connors said. “It’s dangerous. This law enforcement officer showed up to work that day and was doing his job when he found himself in an untenable situation.”
The dilemma of the Thirty Meter Telescope issue has engulfed Hawaii because mid-July once the state declared construction would start after a decade-long license and appeals procedure. Protesters have blocked the road to Mauna Kea’s summit for the last two months, preventing the building from getting penalized. They oppose construction since they think the top of the mountain is sacred.
Ige said there has been improper language on each side, noting he has seen “terrible and racist” things written about protesters in the comment sections of information sites online.
“Whatever happens to this project, those kinds of postings are not acceptable here. They don’t represent who we are and I urge the public to completely reject them,” Ige said.
William Aila, the chairman of the state Department of Hawaiia Home Lands, said he worries the rhetoric will induce somebody to do harm. He said state workers and their families are deeply affected by the attacks on social networking.
“This is not the fabric of Hawaii that I grew up knowing,” Aila said.
One of the protest leaders condemned the hateful language and the act of placing a bounty on anyone.
“Our message to people on social media is to maintain kapu aloha,” stated Andre Perez, with the term for a doctrine of peace and nonviolence the protesters have vowed to embrace while they oppose the telescope.
“Don’t put out violent language. Do not target individuals. Do not post people’s personal info that puts them at risk,” Perez said.
He said their focus is not about attacking or hurting people. “We are here to protect a sacred mauna,” he said, using the Hawaiian word for mountain.