Police Force Questioned During Injury to Demonstrator at Kāko’o Haleakalā Protest
Police force on Maui has been questioned following an injury reported during an arrest of one of the demonstrators during the Kāko’o Haleakalā protest early Wednesday morning.
Members of Kāko’o Haleakalā, the group that organized the demonstration, tell us that David “Kai” Prais, who was injured during the encounter with police, became unresponsive and unconscious at one point after an officer allegedly kept his knee on Prais’ head.
Fellow Demonstrator Jade Chihara tells Maui Now that enough pressure was inflicted on Prais’ neck to the point where he went unconscious. She said that instead of tending to his care, police “stood around” while bystanders checked on the man’s condition and called for paramedics to respond.
“You are trained first responders,” Chihara said of police, “caring more for the safety of a telescope transport than your own people. My heart goes out to all of those who put themselves on the line, and prayers to the brother Kai who ended up in the hospital,” she said.
Organizers tell Maui Now that Prais was “screaming in pain,” while an officer allegedly “continued to keep his knee on his head.”
Today police fired back saying one of the protesters who was arrested, later identified as David Prais, “had gotten up from the ground and pushed past an officer and dove under the trailer of a truck as it was moving. Prais grabbed onto a tire as the truck slowed to a stop,” according to police accounts.
Police say that they repeatedly ordered Prais to release his grip on the tire “but he refused to listen.”
“Officers had to forcibly remove Prais from under the trailer as he continued to grab on to the tire. As officers tried to move Prais away from the truck, which was stopped on an incline, he continued to actively resist and attempted to run back under the trailer,” police said in a press release issued this afternoon.
“Officers, in the interest of Prais’ safety and the safety of others, took Prais to the ground and tried to handcuff him. Prais continued to struggle with officers and refused to obey commands. He tucked his hands under his body and refused to release them causing officers to forcibly restrain him and pull his arms free in order to handcuff him,” police said in a statement.
As officers escorted Prais to an awaiting vehicle for transport to the police station, “he suddenly appeared to become unconscious,” the report states. Police say officers “guided him to the ground and immediately radioed for an ambulance as a precaution and remained with Prais until its arrival.”
Police say officials with the department have reviewed reports and video of all the arrests, including the arrest of David Prais, and their preliminary findings show that officers acted within department policy and procedure and the scope of their training.
Prais was taken off site by paramedics and transported to the hospital for evaluation. He was then released back into the custody of police.
In a joint press release issued by Maui Police and the State Department of Land and Natural Resource on Wednesday, authorities said “police officers gently lifted the prone protesters to the highway’s shoulder to give the big rigs enough turning radius.”
During the protest, members made a human chain using PVC piping, and lay on the ground, in an attempt to block a convoy transporting equipment for construction of the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope, with some laying beneath large trucks to prevent their advancement up the mountain.
Demonstrators say construction at the site is a desecration of land they consider to be sacred.
The telescope is designed to provide the sharpest views ever taken of the sun, allowing scientists to learn more about solar-terrestrial interactions.
More than 100 demonstrators gathered at the protest site at the corner of the Kula and Old Haleakalā Highways for sign waving earlier in the evening, and an estimated 60 individuals remained past midnight to participate in the protest.
More than 60 law enforcement personnel from the Maui Police Department, and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement participated in the operation.
The convoy was led by a half dozen police vehicles, and included four semi-trucks pulling wide-load trailers. The convoy reached Science City near the summit shortly before 8 o’clock on Wednesday morning.
Similar convoys conducted two years ago were met with more than 25 arrests. Two of the individuals arrested this week, were also arrested back in 2015 amid tensions over development atop Hawaii’s highest summits both on Maui and Hawaii Island.
Arrested were: Jonathan Kaeo, 43, of Pukalani; Samuel Kaeo, 51, of Pukalani; Joseph Henderson, 28 of Pukalani; Shalia Henderson, 18, of Pukalani; Monika Kerr, 26, of Kahului; and David Prais, 39, of Kahului.
All were released on their own recognizance and will have court appearances set. Authorities say they face charges that include disorderly conduct, obstructing a highway, failing to obey a police officer and/or resisting arrest.