Hawaiian native protesters continue their vigilance on Mauna Kea, on the look out for construction crews coming in to construct the Thirty Meter Telescope.
On Friday, after dawn break, a woman performed a mele dance atop Mauna Kea more than 9,000 feet above sea level. Dozens of people witness in silence, and some were even moved to tears, while the mountain’s peak grew clearer as fog retreated.
The construction of a $1.4 billion, thirty meters high telescope is one of the world’s most innovative observatories. This project may be the 14th telescope on the mountain, generating 140 jobs and a boost to the state’s $167 million astronomy industry. But native Hawaiian protesters have congregated two weeks past to hamper construction crews, camping every night on the mountain despite the harsh cold, to oppose what they consider as desecration of the land.
On Wednesday following the arrests of 31 activists, this week saw a lull after Gov. David Ige called for a temporary suspension on the construction . Still, activists have not wavered in their vigilance, sharing stories of Hawaiian history and holding cultural ceremonies on the mountain site.
Although the atmosphere was hopeful, even almost festive, as band played Hawaiian music in a camp across the street at Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center.
But, around two dozen protesters, who call themselves protectors, gather themselves under a gray tent in discussing strategies for the subsequent showdown with the authorities.
The discussion lasted more than 1 hours as sunset broke across the panoramic mountain view and the sun hid behind the clouds.
While the odds are low that the protesters can permanently stop the project which has established state approvals and has managed to clear legal obstacles over the past 7 years, activists are resolute, buoyed even, by the worldwide support they have received. In the past week alone, protester were able to raise $20,000.00 to help defray the cost of bail for those arrested for obstructing construction crews.
Kauai native Kamalei Alexander told the group during a strategic meeting, “We might get arrested but we ain’t gonna lose. We’re ready.”
Even though, the protest is aimed at the Thirty Meter Telescope, a lot of the activists see the demonstration as one of the battles in a long-standing skirmish to reclaim Hawaiian sovereignty.