Hundreds of protesters trying to stop the construction of a giant telescope on land some consider sacred continue to gather at the base of Hawaii’s tallest mountain on Friday, as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders expressed his support for the demonstration.
Protest leader Kaho’okahi Kanuha said protesters have been bracing for law enforcement to show up in force ever since Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation Wednesday giving authorities more control over access to the Big Island mountain. That was the day officers arrested 34 protesters.
Bernie Sanders tweeted his endorsement. “We must guarantee native people’s right to self-determination and their right to protest. I stand with Native Hawaiians who are peacefully demonstrating to protect their sacred mountain of Mauna Kea,” Sanders said on Twitter.
Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green said he plans to meet with people about the issue.
“I believe that this struggle is more about the heart of Hawaii and our sense of self and dignity, especially for the Hawaiian people, than it is about a telescope. It is about cultural recognition and people’s self worth,” he said in a Facebook post.
It’s the fifth day of protests at Mauna Kea in response to closing the road to the summit so that construction equipment for the Thirty Meter Telescope can be taken up. No trucks have gone up.
The Thirty Meter Telescope obtained permits from the state to build after a decade-long review process. Last year the state Supreme Court ruled the permits were obtained legally, allowing construction to move ahead.
There have been protests in other parts of Hawaii, including on Maui and at the state Capitol in Honolulu. Earlier this week, Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and teacher Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu led about a dozen people in sitting down on the floor of the reception room of the governor’s office and singing.
Protesters have also gathered for speeches and waved signs at motorists passing by the Capitol and the state Supreme Court building.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported protesters slowed traffic on Honolulu’s main highway, the H-1, for a second straight day on Thursday. A caravan of vehicles and mopeds forced other cars to slow to a crawl for several minutes until police cars entered the freeway in front of the procession.