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The number of protesters daily blocking access to Mauna Kea in Hawaii and thus prevent the start of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) grew to more than 2,000 yesterday.
The police arrested 33 people, but did nothing else to clear the road. Meanwhile, Democratic governor David Ige finally took some action, albeit mild.
After a day of growing crowds and arrests of elderly demonstrators, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation giving law enforcement more options to end the blockade. The state hadn’t decided whether to remove protesters from the mountain, but the proclamation makes that an option, Ige said. “We are certainly committed to ensuring the project has access to the construction site,” Ige said. “We’ve been patient in trying to allow the protesters to express their feelings about the project.”
If Ige had moved firmly at the beginning of the week, the situation would likely not have escalated, as it has. Removing the protesters now will be far more difficult.
As is usual for modern reporting, the article spends most of its time promoting the perspective of the protesters. However, it does get one quote from a native Hawaiian who supports the telescope’s construction, and that quote reveals how little this protest has to do with religion:
Some Native Hawaiians say they don’t believe the project will desecrate Mauna Kea. Most of the cultural practices on the mountain take place away from the summit, said Annette Reyes, a Native Hawaiian from the Big Island. “It’s going to be out of sight, out of mind,” she said.
During the legal battle the court took testimony from many native Hawaiians who confirmed this position. Moreover, the public negotiations that produced the agreement to build the telescope (while removing five other telescopes on the mountaintop) included the most important religious leaders among the native population.
This is a power game being played here by the protest leaders. They are vying for power and influence both within their community as well as across Hawaii. Moreover, they want a level of power that will make them immune from any legal or democratic process. If they win they will have obtained the dictatorial right to unilaterally rule, on any issue.