Hundreds of vehicles driving from Hawaii Kai to Maili Beach Park on Sunday in opposition to the planned Thirty Meter Telescope on Hawaii island were greeted along the way with signs, Hawaii flags and people pushing their thumbs and forefingers together in a symbol of support for Mauna Kea.
The first people leading the convoy shouted “Ku kiai mauna” (protect Mauna Kea) as they left Maunalua Bay’s parking lot just after 9 a.m. in their vehicles, many of which flew Hawaii flags.
The protesters, who had been issued a permit by state and city transportation officials, were escorted by Honolulu police. It took more than an hour for all the vehicles to depart Hawaii Kai.
Many of the protesters wore red T-shirts and tank tops with messages including, “We are Mauna Kea,” “Protect the mauna,” “‘A‘ule TMT” and “Protector.”
Construction of the $1.4 billion telescope atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island has been unable to begin because of protesters blocking Mauna Kea Access Road and not allowing construction equipment to move up the mountain.
The telescope developers spent 10 years planning the project, winning building permits and court approval. They say the telescope would help astronomers search for life in our universe and pursue other scientific projects. Gov. David Ige said in early July it is time to begin construction.
But the access road has been closed since July 15, and 38 people were arrested July 17 as they blocked the roadway.
Mauna Kea is considered sacred by some Hawaiians, and the protesters believe the construction of the telescope would be a desecration.
On Friday the state tore down an illegal structure near the Mauna Kea protest camp.
Meanwhile in Hawaii Kai, Honolulu police officers stopped traffic in both directions on Kalanianaole Highway as the protest convoy began to move out Sunday.
Ho‘okahi Quiniola of Halawa Valley surveyed the scene and sympathized with the inconvenience to some but also hoped the convoy made other drivers “aware of what’s happening in Hawaii.”
Jon Kiko of Kalihi helped lead the convoy on his Honda CBR 900 RR motorcycle, along with fellow motorcycle club member Danny Zukeran of Waipio Gentry, who rode a Harley-Davidson Street Glide.
The convoy shows that Hawaiians “are not forgotten,” Zukeran said. And the protest against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea is “not only pono, it’s righteous,” he said.
Kiko said, “We want to support the Hawaiian community best we can.”
Several people in the line of vehicles said they wanted to show support for the protesters — also known as protectors — on Mauna Kea, as well as teach a new generation how to protest peacefully.
“It’s all about our keiki and our future,” said Kaluna Kaha of Kaneohe as his 7-year-old granddaughter, Lexuz Bernabe, draped herself in a Hawaii flag. “Sorry for the inconvenience for everyone, but this has to happen. It’s worldwide. It’s not only in the islands.”
On the Queen Emma Street overpass, Sabrina Toro of Papakolea held a handful of ti leaves as she waved at the convoy traveling below her.
“Tell you, chicken skin, chicken skin,” Toro said.
Toro’s children and grandchildren have visited the protest site at Mauna Kea, and said, “It’s history, history. And I’m glad they are a part of it.”
Kamakoa Zablan of Kaimuki waited in her 2019 Toyota 4Runner with her three boys — ages 8, 5 and 9 months — near the back of a line of vehicles waiting to leave the Maunalua Bay parking lot.
The back of her 4Runner had a stenciled sticker that read “Ku Kia‘i Mauna.”
“The boys are asking, ‘Why are they putting more telescopes up there when there’s so many?’” Zablan said.
Pele Soma drove a 14-axle concrete pump truck toward the front of the convoy. The truck, which belongs to his family business — Ohana Concrete Pumping — also flew “da biggest flag,” Soma said.
“We Hawaiians stand together, onipaa (resolute),” Soma said. “Doesn’t matter what island. We all stand as one.”
Staff writer Jason Genegabus contributed to this report.