Column: Delays in clearing TMT protesters pose risks to stability, security
Allowing the protesters to remain on Mauna Kea gives them a media platform that inspires lawlessness and vandalism.
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It is time Gov. David Ige and Big Island Mayor Harry Kim cleared the protest camp on Mauna Kea. Their continuing delay is destabilizing our society and creating risks to our national security. The protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) have morphed from what may have been a legitimate exercise in civil disobedience, into an anarchic campaign corroding the rule of law.
The corrosion began with the illegal blockade of the Mauna Kea Access Road (blockades, by the by, are acts of war, not nonviolent civil disobedience). It shifted to blockades of the H-1 freeway: Mauna Kea-inspired protests against a wind farm project in Kahuku then resulted in “someone” blocking a road by cutting down a utility pole with a chainsaw on the same night the massive turbines for the project were being transported down the road. “Someone else” then damaged a turbine by cutting an anchor bolt with a blow torch.
The protests’ climax may very well be an attempt to shut down a premier military training base on Big Island, which will hamstring American military readiness in the Pacific.
This breakdown in our society has resulted in skyrocketing law enforcement costs. The protesters have claimed that the projects themselves should pay for law enforcement. Requiring private businesses to hire mercenaries and empowering them with police powers is a terrible idea. The proper course of action is for the Attorney General’s Office to seek restitution from the protesters and their financial and social media backers, as they are the ones who intentionally created the situation necessitating the increased police costs. This will shift the costs to those who have caused the damage. It will also create the proper disincentive for such lawlessness going forward.
The governor’s and mayor’s delay in clearing the Mauna Kea protesters is also a risk to our national security. As described above, the protests are shifting to Pohakuloa, a major training base that any number of American adversaries in the Pacific would happily see closed. Given that TMT is one of the few areas of cooperation between China and the United States, Russia and North Korea have every reason to try to foment social division in order to shut TMT down. Better yet if they can shut down TMT and Pohakuloa using the same protesters.
The Mauna Kea protests are ripe for such foreign interference, if it is not present already. Exacerbating social, religious and ethnic cleavages is exactly what the Russians were doing during the 2016 presidential election (see the Mueller Report, pages 22, 25). “Someone” has been creating fake social media accounts, outrageous lies and inflammatory commentary online, which is similar to social media tactics used by Russian “trolls” (see Muller Report, footnote 28) during the 2016 election (see Mueller Report, pages 24-26).
This is not a political campaign. There are innumerable ways to spend money supporting these protests in secret. Many protesters are clearly hostile to American national interests, if not America itself, erroneously claiming that the United States overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy, that Hawaii should secede from the U.S., or outright tying the Hawaiian sovereignty movement to “challenging U.S. global domination.” You do not see the protesters flying any American flags (they have burned one).
Allowing the protesters to remain on Mauna Kea gives them a media platform that inspires lawlessness and vandalism. Given the anti-American rhetoric and actions coming from the protest camp, the protests now present a risk to our national security. It is time for Gov. Ige and Mayor Kim to stop legitimizing the protesters’ illegal actions through further negotiation. It is time to clear the road.