- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Officers enforcing a rule aimed at stopping telescope protesters from camping on Mauna Kea descended upon the mountain for a sweep early Monday and found an empty tent.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said 19 of its officers went to the mountain and didn’t find anyone camping, unlike in previous sweeps. Officers have arrested a total of 15 people for violating the temporary rule restricting being on the mountain during certain nighttime hours unless in a moving vehicle.

Video from the state shows officers dismantling the large tent. Officers left untouched a wood-and-straw meeting house that protesters erected for prayers and ceremonies.

Protest leaders said they reached an agreement with the state last week to stop sleeping on the mountain as long as officials warn them when the nonprofit company building the Thirty Meter Telescope resumes construction. Protesters had been keeping around-the-clock watch on the mountain to prevent crews from accessing the construction site. Protesters say they don’t want another telescope on a mountain many Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

During two attempts to resume construction, crews were unable to reach the telescope site because of protesters blocking their path. Construction has been stalled since April and telescope officials haven’t determined when construction will resume.

Because of the agreement, protesters question why the state felt it necessary to conduct Monday’s sweep.

“We already moved out,” said Lanakila Mangauil, a protest leader. “The sense that they need so much force at an odd hour seems like wasted resources.”

Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison declined to respond to Mangauil’s comments.

Mangauil said he wants supporters to know they haven’t given up and will be on the mountain regularly during the daytime.

“We weren’t pushed off the mountain,” he said. “We were able to come to an understanding with the state that would secure the mountain.”

Some, however, aren’t comfortable with trusting the state to warn protesters about attempts to resume construction, Mangauil said.

“If that trust is broken, we’ll have to return to the mountain,” he said.

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at https://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .

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