HomeAsian AmericansRetired sergeant claims traffic enforcement targeted Native Hawaiians and protestors

Retired sergeant claims traffic enforcement targeted Native Hawaiians and protestors

Photo of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea.

On Friday, the Hawaii County Police Commission rejected a claim from a retired sergeant complaining about allegedly racist traffic enforcement over the past four months on a Hawaii freeway, reports Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Since August 15, enhanced enforcement was ordered on Daniel K. Inouye Highway, resulting in 8,000 traffic citations and at least 70 arrests. This persisted until a decision was announced last Thursday for enforcement to stand down.

Complainant Juergen Canda is claiming the enhanced enforcement was intended to suppress ongoing protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea.

“Any rational analysis of this unprecedented traffic enforcement effort only leads to one logical conclusion — that it was conducted for the goals of the strategy that’s been employed in many states in America,” said Canda. “The enforcement effort alone can oftentimes create greater sanctions and monetary impacts than arrests of those participating in the protests alone …This is a goal and benefit of such a plan. Because now you have a reason to arrest, remove and discourage persons from participating in a protected activity.”

Protestors have been preventing workers from making TMT construction progress by occupying the only access road used to ascend Mauna Kea.

Some consider Mauna Kea a sacred mountain in Native Hawaiian culture, and the choice to locate an extremely large new telescope there led to local protests that began in 2014, which then picked up steam to receive global attention in 2015. Notable Pacific Islander stars like Dwayne Johnson and Jason Momoa have publicly announced their solidarity with those protesting the telescope.

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Hawai’i State Canoe Championships HCRA. Full represent for the MAUNA The facts the truth TMT + MAUNA KEA = DESECRATION. The solution TMT + CANARY ISLANDS = DISCOVERY. If not Canary Islands. then tough shit send it to space. We support science. More importantly it’s astronomy and we support that also considering we Polynesians have sailed our oceans guided by the stars But this has to stop you can not build an 18 story building on our sacred mountain. If u can’t build past 7 story’s in Hilo or Kona then who decides and why the FUCK would u build 18 on our mauna Shame on you. Anyone who supports this shame on you. Have you not taken enough from the Kānaka Maoli. Aole TMT #kukiaimauna #wearemaunakea #dadbodsrule #livealoha #alohaalwayswins #canaryislandshelpUs Aloha BIG J

A post shared by Jason Momoa (@prideofgypsies) on

Canda claims the enhanced traffic enforcement involved “systemic racism” targeting Native Hawaiians.

“When I joined this department, we had a horrible reputation … and relationship with the public,” he said. “25 years we’ve put into building what we have now. It’s being sacrificed for the stupid telescope. They’re using us as a mercenary force or something. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s destroying our community relations. I’m not here about the telescope. I’m here about the legacy of 25 years.”

Chief Paul Ferreira said that Canda’s complaint was the only one of its kind in those four months of enforcement and denied that the operation was aimed at Native Hawaiians or protestors.

“At no time did we ever target the Hawaiian community. In fact, it was specifically stated we do not go after people who are flying Hawaiian flags, we do not go after these type of individuals,” said Ferreira. “We did not criminalize these people.”

Major Samuel Jelsma, who was in charge of this operation, defended the police department’s actions, claiming that the officers assigned to Mauna Kea were just doing what they needed to do, which included traffic enforcement. The commission ultimately ruled that there was insufficient evidence supporting Canda’s complaint.

On Thursday, Hawaii Governor David Ige announced that TMT construction has been halted for now since preparations are not in place to move forward, according to Gizmodo.

“While I am disappointed that TMT will not move forward at this time, I hope this will allow for some respite during the holiday season,” Ige said in a statement. “I also remain committed to continuing the many conversations that are currently taking place. I know that we can do great things when we work together, and I am hopeful that our community will be stronger going forward.”

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