Native Hawaiians and their supporters began to mass at the state Capitol this morning for an event called Hawai‘i Rising, which organizers expect will attract thousands of participants to the opening day ceremonies for the Hawaii state Legislature.
Many of the early morning participants wore the red and yellow scarfs, T-shirts and other garb that mark them as opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope project, a project that sparked months of peaceful protests on Mauna Kea and fueled a statewide Hawaiian movement that many consider the revival of “Lahui,” or the Hawaiian nation.
On July 17 the protests triggered the arrest of 39 TMT opponents, many of them elderly Hawaiians who describe themselves as “protectors” of the mountain. So far the protests have blocked construction of the $1.4 billion telescope project, and the state has spent an estimated $15 million deploying police and law enforcement officials to cope with the protests.
About 350 activists joined in protocols of hula, chant and prayer that began at 8 a.m. today at the Capitol, imitating the daily ceremony and dance on Mauna Kea that have been made famous on social media.
Events are scheduled until 5 p.m. today, including classes at the Puu Huluhulu University, named for a puu or hill at the Mauna Kea protest site. Tables in the Capitol rotunda were stocked with voter registration and other materials making the case for the TMT opponents and their allies.
Lawmakers and staff gathered at the Capitol railings to watch the start of the day-long demonstration, with some shooting cell phone video of the hula and chant.
Organizers said there will also be voter education activities and speeches from protest leaders “aimed at shifting the political landscape to empower community voices, Hawaiian cultural perspectives, and environmental protection in public policy decisions.”
“Hawaiʻi Rising is part of a series of community activation events that will be a hallmark of this legislative session and the 2020 elections,” according to a statement from the protest organizers.