In Hawaii, there’s a unique form of protest now: a native dance, as the video above of demonstrations against an observatory being built on Mount Mauna Kea, the tallest peak in Hawaii, demonstrates.
The protests have swelled in size over the years, gathering force all around the globe and even attracting celebrity involvement from the likes of The Rock, Jason Momoa and Bruno Mars. The protests have come to be known as the Thirty Meter Telescope protests, and date as far back as 2015.
In a powerful video from November 22, 2019, filmed from behind an electric fence, police authorities are heard using loudspeakers to instruct protesters to clear the roads. The protesters, undeterred, are assembled in a large group and seen performing a native dance, chanting in perfect synchronisation.
Mauna Kea is sacred to the Native Hawaiians, representing their ancestral ties to creation. The upper region, Wao Akua, is considered to be the realms of the Akua (creator) and the summit holds a temple of the figure considered the supreme being not only in Hawaiian culture but also in many histories throughout Polynesia.
The native protesters, who call themselves kia‘i, or “protectors”, assert that the construction will further desecrate Mauna Kea, which is already home to numerous telescopes. Thirteen observatories on Mauna Kea have been shut down because of the protests, as natives of Hawaii have been in a long-standing battle against the relentless influx of construction projects.
Many argue that these protests are about a larger ideal – the protection of the planet, of sacred places and the cultural sanctity of indigenous people.
In December of 2015, the Supreme Court of Hawaii had ruled that due process had not been followed in planning the telescope observatory, and revoked the licence for the Thirty Meter Telescope. However, in 2018 the permit was applied for again and granted this time.
According to recent polling, ever since the 2019 chapter of these protests, support for the project has declined to 50 percent.
Responses to the above video on social media have been sharp, with most standing with the natives and asserting that construction on land that is sacred to a culture is not acceptable.