[Pnews] Hawaii’s Mauna Kea - More Than 33 Arrested as They Attempt to Block Telescope Construction on Sacred Land
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 25 12:47:06 EDT 2019
Activists Camped at Hawaii’s Mauna Kea Face Government Opposition as
They Attempt to Block Telescope Construction on Sacred Land
Aída Chávez - July 24, 2019
_On July 17,_ police in riot gear arrested at least 33 Native Hawaiian
elders, or kupuna, for peacefully blocking construction of a massive
telescope on sacred land on the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea. The
arrests came after the kupuna — some of whom use canes or wheelchairs —
were blocking the road to the summit. Shortly after the arrests, Hawaii
Gov. David Ige signed an emergency order
to give law enforcement more authority to remove activists on Mauna Kea,
close roads, and ensure delivery of materials to the construction site.
According to a state spokesperson
the activists were released right away and charged with “obstruction of
government operations.” Up to 2,000 Native Hawaiians and activists
remain camped at the base of Mauna Kea, where they have been for over a
week, to prevent the $1.4 billion construction project known as the
Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, from getting underway. More broadly,
they are protesting a history of American colonialism that goes back
more than a century and the increasingly militarized police force on the
island. The emergency declaration has limited public access to the
mountain, but as the protectors gain supporters from outside the state —
including statements from presidential candidates and solidarity
protests in several states — they say they’re in it for the long haul.
The Native Hawaiian community has been fighting the construction of the
telescope in courts and on the ground for about a decade, since plans to
build on Mauna Kea were first announced in 2009. On July 10, Ige
announced construction would begin the week of July 15, following a
four-year delay. The conflict has now reached a tipping point, and the
indigenous resistance is drawing comparisons to the Standing Rock Sioux
reservation’s fight against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota
two years ago.
“What I keep hearing is, ‘It’s just a telescope, it’s not a pipeline’ —
no,” said former Hawaii State Rep. Kaniela Ing. “This is an 18-story
massive structure that has a footprint of at least six football fields
in a county that only allows 6-story buildings. And it’s in a
conservation district. So even if — sacredness aside — if you care about
the environment at all, this is a really dangerous precedent and our
Mauna has already seen oil spills from past telescopes.”
_The Native Hawaiian_ Legal Corporation, or NHLC, is suing the governor
over the emergency proclamation. They say that Ige’s intent was to
enable the construction of the TMT, which has prevented Hawaiians from
exercising protected speech rights, including the right to pray at
sacred gathering sites.
On July 10, the ACLU of Hawaii
a letter asking the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, or
DLNR, and Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement not to
deploy a recently purchased military-oriented weapon, known as a sound
cannon, against the TMT protesters.
The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation says that Hawaiians are being
prevented from exercising protected speech rights, including the
right to pray at sacred gathering sites.
Though it’s sometimes portrayed as a “communications” device, the
long-range acoustic device, or LRAD, is a weapon that has been used by
law enforcement to force compliance at protests by causing immense pain
and physical damage, including permanent hearing damage.
“Regardless of whether DLNR actually uses LRAD at Mauna Kea, many people
very likely will be too afraid to exercise their rights to assemble and
protest at all, lest they suffer the same kinds of harms that past LRAD
victims have suffered,” the ACLU of Hawaii wrote. “Worse, this chilling
effect deters not only protesters, but also journalists, observers, and
other bystanders, further showing the indiscriminate, overbroad
influence of LRAD.”
Ing, too, pointed out how the state’s actions were limiting the right to
protest. “The irony is these kapuna were arrested for not following
these American laws by taking space in the road,” the former state
representative said. “Then the governor goes ahead and gives himself the
authority to skirt basic free speech protections and use excessive force.”
“What the kupuna were charged with was obstructing government operations
but this isn’t a government operation — this is a private project,” he
continued. “And it’s like, is our government really that controlled by
private interests that it doesn’t even recognize the difference itself
_Support from prominent_ politicians is pouring in like never before, as
candidates running for office express solidarity with the Native
Hawaiians. Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren voiced support
for opponents of the TMT in a tweet on Monday. “The Hawaiians who have
been protesting construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope are trying to
protect a sacred site from further desecration,” shesaid
<https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1153500734006185985?s=20>. “I stand
in solidarity with them.”
In a tweet that has since been deleted, presidential candidate Sen.
Bernie Sanders expressed support for the Native Hawaiians protecting
Mauna Kea. “We must guarantee native people’s right to
self-determination and their right to protest,” he wrote. “I stand with
Native Hawaiians who are peacefully demonstrating to protect their
sacred mountain of Mauna Kea.” Sanders deleted the tweet without
explanation and has not responded to requests for comment from several
reporters, including this one.
After a week of silence on the issue, presidential candidate and Hawaii
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard released a video statement
Friday urging Ige to withdraw the emergency declaration, delay any new
construction, “and bring leaders together from both sides in the spirit
of aloha to ho’oponopono and determine the best path forward.”
Some activists have criticized Gabbard on the issue, saying she has
largely ignored the longstanding battle over the telescope project,
which is happening in her own backyard, while supporting causes in other
parts of the country that are in the national spotlight.
Gabbard has largely ignored the longstanding battle over the
telescope, while supporting causes in other parts of the country
that are in the national spotlight.
Late last week, she reiterated her call for the governor of Puerto Rico
to step down amid massive protests on the island, but had not commented
on Mauna Kea, even as the movement was growing to its most organized
phase yet. And though she hasn’t joined the activists that have been
camping out on the mountain, she visited Puerto Rico over the weekend to
join the thousands of protesters in the streets.
Similarly, in 2016, the Hawaii congresswoman traveled to North Dakota
for the Dakota Access pipeline protests without taking a public stance
on Mauna Kea, as the Honolulu Civil Beat reported
at the time. She addressed a crowd at an event near the Standing Rock
protest camp when someone asked about the proposed construction on
sacred land in her home state. “The people there have stood strongly and
spoken for the land,” Gabbard said. “That issue, it looks like, has
resolved thanks to the position and the stands that they’ve taken.”
Andre Perez, one of the Native Hawaiian activists who was arrested on
Mauna Kea the previous year, happened to be in the audience and
interrupted Gabbard. “Mauna Kea is not resolved,” he said.
Hawaii Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, however, have maintained
some distance. Hirono in astatement
last week said she’s concerned for the safety of the protectors who are
exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest, adding that
the project “has undergone a significant and thorough regulatory and
legal review, and I respect that process.” Schatz had not publicly
commented on the issue but told The Intercept on Wednesday that he
thinks “it’s good that kind words were exchanged” and there’s going to
be an attempt at reconciliation.
“Mayor [Harry] Kim is the right person to facilitate that process
because of his long service to the Hawaii Island community and his deep
aloha and mutual respect with the Native Hawaiian community,” he added.
Rep. Ed Case, a Democrat from Hawaii, said he supports “the continuation
of world-class astronomy on Mauna Kea,” including completion of the TMT.
_At the sanctuary_ camp, dubbed Pu’uhonua o Pu’u Huluhulu, the community
has set up afree school
restrooms, food capabilities
and trash is taken down twice a day. Activists describe it as a place of
refuge and solidarity, where organizers also sing, dance, and lead chants.
Ing said he has never witnessed anything like what’s presently happening
on Mauna Kea before in his lifetime, a sentiment echoed by other
activists in the state. The closest thing to this current movement he
has seen in Hawaii happened back in 2015, when the Mauna protectors
stopped the first attempt of the TMT construction. This time around, he
said, the Native Hawaiian community is “more coalesced” and unified.
“When you go up on the Mauna, or just watching videos, you see a type of
community that our current form of American capitalism just cannot
provide,” Ing added. “No unnecessary hierarchy, there’s order, and just
people have their different roles, everyone is playing their position
really well, and all labor is visible and appreciated.”
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