(ABOVE VIDEO) Coverage of the Oct. 7 Thirty Meter Telescope groundbreaking disruption, edited together using video from David Corrigan, Daryl Lee, and David Lakota, and the voice of Sherry Bracken. It is also airing Thursday night on Na Leo o Hawaii Television.
MAUNA KEA, Hawaii – Tuesday was supposed to be the groundbreaking for the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea, but things did not go according to plan.
Protesters opposed to the project were able to make their way to the site of the ceremony, where dignitaries had gathered to celebrate the start of the construction phase of the $1.4 billion dollar observatory. There, a showdown occurred that had been building all day long.
In the early morning, a group gathered to honor the sacred Mauna Kea from Pu’u Huluhulu on Saddle Road. In the days prior to the groundbreaking, those who organized the morning prayer ceremony made it clear that they were separate from another bunch who planned to demonstrate against the observatory project. Some even spent the night on the mountain, we later learned.
Big Island Video News was stationed at the summit area, where crews were getting ready for the big day hours ahead of time. Mauna Kea ranger security was tight, driven by concerns over possible acts of civil disobedience. Kahu Danny Akaka was set to perform the ceremony, and blessed the four corner of the site well in advance. TMT officials also planned to broadcast a live video feed of the event starting at 11:15 a.m., hosted by Dr. Robert Hurt.
The astronomy world has been waiting with anticipation for the Thirty Meter Telescope to peer into the universe. When complete, the observatory will be the most powerful in the world. Scientists hope it will unlock the secrets of the cosmos. There are multinational interests involved. China, Japan, Canada and India are all partners in the project, and planned to have representatives in attendance for the groundbreaking.
Meanwhile, below the summit, protesters began to grow in number. Video filmed by Hawaiian Kingdom advocate David Lakota shows how the group eventually made their way up the mountain, encountering different levels of resistance from law enforcement. Lakota captured footage of the TMT opponents blocking the road, cutting off the global gathering of guests from the groundbreaking site. Up at the summit, concerns were growing. With satellite radio phones as their only means of communication, organizers heard the reports of the blockade, and realized an event delay was inevitable. Some got in their cars and went down to help usher the international guests to the summit.
Below, at the entrance to the astronomy precinct, things were getting tense. Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi tried to diffuse the situation. The dignitaries were somehow smuggled past the road block and brought to the summit area. For a moment, it looked like the groundbreaking would proceed as planned, only a little late. The number of guests had decreased. The governor was not at the summit, nor was the mayor.
Fearing the ceremony would be crashed at any moment, organizers hurried to start the program, and break ground as fast as they could. That’s when Lanakila Mangauil stormed the TMT site. He ran up to the summit, in his bare feet, to halt the groundbreaking. Mangauil managed to hold off the ceremony about 20 minutes, by himself, as supporters made their way up. TMT officials tried to push forward with the groundbreaking, even with Lanakila standing in protest. Kahu Akaka began his blessing, but soon another interruption. Before long, the songs of several more protesters filled the air. The Thirty Meter Telescope officials called it a day. Dignitaries packed up and went home. The protesters stayed to make sure no ground would be broken. And they helped clean up the empty chairs.
Big Island Video News has obtained or received permission to share the following responses to the events of October 7th. We begin with an official statement from Thirty Meter Telescope representatives.
In the spirit of aloha and in reverence for the sacredness of Mauna Kea, a blessing of the land occurred on the morning of Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014. The remainder of the ceremony was interrupted by protestors. We concluded the ceremony early as we were unable to continue with speeches by distinguished guests from Hawaii and around the world. The TMT project has initiated the construction phase and we are happy to be moving forward. Much work has been done on TMT around the world, on mirrors, instruments, and more. and the momentum is forward.Sandra Dawson, Manager, Hawaii Community Affairs
We haven’t heard much from the various government representatives in attendance, but there has been plenty of response from demonstrators.
First, from the man who first reached the summit ceremony to stand in opposition to the groundbreaking, Joshua Lanakila Mangauil. Here is what he posted on his Facebook page following the event. We share it here with his permission.
Aloha no kakou apau. To all my people, my ohana, my friends, to humanity. Yesterday was a day of great mana. Opening of truth in the realm of the gods. But I must make my apologies.
It is not my intentions to threaten, or bring hardship onto anyone. How ever I cannot stand back and allow it to happen to others. Most of all the aina who feeds us all. Mahalo for all your encouraging words but I truly wish not to be put on any pedestal. I only found my strength on the mauna to open my heart and the aloha to govern over how it was to be expressed. So much anger and frustration swirled through us all but holding to aloha is what keeps us pono and strong. But this SHOULD BE OUR NORM! When there is such a problem we need to drop all the facades and address the matter open and honestly. The political world is not human. I must apologize for my statement of Billy Kenoi and the officers being “forked tounge”, in this situation. Billy said that they were leaving and the officers asked only for space to turn around. I honor Billy for fallowing his word and left. I will not bind him to those who snuck around. I need to Mahalo the police officers for your presence to kako’o should things have gotten out of hand. The UH rangers, mahalo except for the one who tryed to run me over! No mahalo but much aloha to you cause I’m sure that karma may be comming back around.
Bit this struggle is far from over. I thank you all for your Mahalo and encouragement but in the end we need you. The mauna needs you. Just a FB post may help slightly but your presence is greater when the call comes. Let this not just be another protest, let this only be the beginning of our reawakening to our kuleana to the mauna! To our world! As it was stated “this dose not affect construction”. So the land movers will still be going up. Or will they? E na kanaka, Ho’omaka. Start having these talks with your ohana and friends YOUR CHILDREN!Joshua Lanakila Mangauil via Facebook
All people of faith, whose god is not the dollar, — Catholics, Methodist, UCC, New Hope, etc. need to stand in solidarity with Native Hawaiian practitioners in prayer and action for the sacred temple –Mauna a Wakea — Mauna Kea? Kaliko Kanaele of the Royal Order of Kamehameha put the matter sharply in reference to the $1.4 billion, 18 story, Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) planned for the Mauna when he said: “We can’t keep on desecrating.” Kaliko’s words of wisdom apply not only to Mauna Kea but equally to the continued bombing at Pohakuloa, the drilling into Pele for geothermal energy, and the overall profit driven pollution of the planet causing a global climate crisis. It is time for all people of faith to come together and put the sacred before the almighty dollar and demonstrate through our actions what God or Gods to whom we pray. Stopping the TMT (Too Many Telescopes) on Mauna Kea would be a good start.Jim Albertini, Malu ‘Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action