Hawaii Governor David Ige has been the target of death threats due to his support for the Thirty Meter Telescope, a $1.4 billion endeavor designed to add jobs to Honolulu and expand scientific knowledge and understanding of our universe. Opponents of the project contend that its planned location, Mauna Kea, is sacred land belonging to Native Hawaiians and should not be used for public or private construction.
Ige won’t halt construction because of the death threats. That’s good news for the telescope’s supporters who have already suffered through time-consuming setbacks from protesters, construction delays, and even the Supreme Court, which recently invalidated a building permit. The permit was later revised before construction was allowed to proceed as planned.
Ige has not asked for additional security personnel in response to the threats.
Reports have not clarified whether or not he would be seeking the services of a Honolulu personal injury attorney to combat the recent string of death threats. The authorities are currently investigating the harassing behavior.
During a press conference, Ige said, “I am aware of death threats made against me personally. I’m calling on everyone responsible for these examples of cyberbullying and hateful speech to stop immediately. Personal attacks have no place in America and no place in Hawaii. They don’t represent who we are and I urge the public to completely reject them.”
The speech did not label either side of the ongoing conflict as culpable for the illegal behavior. Instead, officials worried that the threats would increase feelings of resentment during an already volatile, fragile relationship with the public, or incite someone to acts of violence.
Protests at the Mauna Kea construction site have continued for months. Protestors have no intention of going home until the construction order is reversed. Currently they are blocking the summit access road, which construction vehicles and personnel must use to make the journey to the top.
Hawaii News Now urged the public to think about and understand the difference between free speech online and harassment or threatening language – the latter of which are fundamentally illegal.
Tommy Aiu, a law enforcement expert for the network, said, “If a threat encompasses I’m going to do this to you and I’m going to do that to you, and it involves some bodily injury or death, that’s a violation and that’s a crime.”
Protestors have blamed law enforcement for impeding their right to free speech or physically harming them. They expect to be removed from the premises over the coming days and weeks.