After several days of blocking the street to prevent forbid construction machinery from reaching the summit, the Hawaii Police Department and officers of the Department of Land and Natural Resources arrested 31 out of about 300 protesters against the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in the Mauna Kea Conservation District on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Although protesters interrupted the official groundbreaking ceremony in October, these are the primary arrests to be made, because the fight against what will be one of the largest telescopes in the world continues within the courts. Hawaiian protesters hope to achieve the Supreme Court and worry that the first construction before the courts reach resolution can cause irreparable harm to the environment and to Native Hawaiian ancestral graves and sacred places.
Kealoha Pisciotta, president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou preservationist group told NBC News, “Things are terribly emotional as we must witness desecration of our most revered holy place–and burial ground of our most sacred ancestors. However [things are] peaceful and all are staying within the Kapu Aloha –moving in Aloha with steadfast determination. We are therefore proud of the young protectors as they have stayed truly within the Kapu Aloha and have been training others to prepare themselves for staying in Kapu Aloha.
Police officers first shared a traditional Hawaiian greeting of respect in which they touch foreheads and take a breath together to those protesters who called themselves “protectors” before making arrests. Police just showed respect and safety on the public road.
Prior to the arrests, prominent Hawaiian leaders had been meeting with newly elected Governor David Ige, University of Hawaii officials, the police department, and the county prosecuting officer in order to try to find a peaceful resolution.
Protesters barricade the road outside the Mauna Kea visitors center in Hilo, Hawaii on March 30. Protesters are preventing construction of a large telescope near the summit of a mountain held sacred by Native Hawaiians. Some consider the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope project as desecrating the Big Island’s Mauna Kea. Astronomers say the telescope can permit them to see some 13 billion light-weight years away.