“One victory for us is a victory for all people,” Pua Case, Hawaiian activist and traditional practitioner, announced on the telephone, one day after activists convinced funders and scientists to abandon a groundbreaking ceremony for a $1.4 billion, football field sized, Thirty Meter Telescope.
On Tuesday, October 7, at the base of Mauna Kea, the world's tallest mountain, close to 200 activists joined in prayer, to preserve Hawai’i’ s most sacred place.
The groundbreaking ceremony came to a dead halt when Joshua Lanakila Mangauil, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner, and other supporters made their way to the top of the mountain. Mangauil, who can be seen in the video below, stormed the ceremony unexpectedly and denounced the actions taking place. Mangauil’s impassioned pleas, among others, halted the events.
Later, Mangauil said he wished it had gone differently. “It got to a boiling point that led to shutting the whole thing down. I hope we did the right thing, there were a lot of words,” he said.
Mangauil said shutting down the ceremony has not stopped future construction, however, he added, “The groundbreaking was illegal on the grounds that the court case is still in litigation, and they are already pursuing construction. They have done this with other projects, too. They go and spend millions of dollars and then they say it’s too late to stop it, ‘We have already spent the money.’ They are just pushing it along.”
Case said there were other reasons the ceremony didn’t happen. “In response to the scheduled event, we had planned a prayer vigil down at the base of the mountain; and we all went where we needed to go. There were people on every island who met to pray. We were praying and chanting to the mountain to let her know we stood with her. We were going to make her stronger, and make us stronger,” Case said. “Some people report that we are standing here for spiritual and cultural reasons, but we are also standing here because laws have not been followed that would have stopped this.”
Before construction begins, the board was called upon to fulfill the requirements of the Hawaii Administrative Rules for Conservation District (13-5). Environmental and cultural impacts, field of view and permanent damage to the mountain are required to be taken into consideration, however, activists agree that those rules have been ignored.
Clarence Kukauakahi Ching, a supporter of halting construction of the behemoth telescope, spoke to Big Island Video News, he said the telescope’s board argued that if all of the criteria were followed there would be no telescopes on the mountain. Ching added, “I think that is the proper story to tell. We shouldn’t have wall to wall telescopes. We have too many of them up there now.”
Mangauil said he will continue to protest. “You can see the passion in our people. I know for myself, I will be going up. We built a lot of awareness and there are so many people who don’t understand the impact. What was shown yesterday is that there are a lot of young people in their late teens to mid-20s, a lot of people are now recognizing this is happening, and the consciousness is starting to take hold.”
“A small group of people have been able to stop the government. It was a formality for them, the construction process is set to continue, but this gives us a public platform to put the issue out there,” Manguail said. “When you build in a conservation zone you cannot permanently alter the ground. There is such obvious deception, it’s unfathomable that people don’t get it. It is so obvious they are breaking these laws, but they keep going and going and going.”