Indigenous protectors of Mauna Kea oppose the $1.4 billion project
A week after construction was scheduled to resume on a long-delayed $1.4 billion telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea—a dormant volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island—thousands of Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain sacred continued to protest the planned observatory.
“There are Native people everywhere around the world standing for their mountaintops, for their waters, for their land bases, their oceans and their life ways. We are no different than them.”
—Pua Case, Indigenous organizerExplaining that the 13,796-foot mountain is consideredhome to Native Hawaiian deities, Kaho’okahi Kanuha—a leader of the kia’i, or protectors, who have set up camp on the mountain—told CNN Sunday that “it is without a doubt one of our most sacred places in all of Hawaii.”
Kanuha said that Mauna Kea—considered by astronomers one of the best places in the world to observe the skies—already has been “desecrated” by 13 other telescopes and with the ongoing Indigenous-led movement against the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), “This is our last stand.”
“We are taking a stand not only to protect our mauna and aina—our land—who we have a genealogical connection to,” Kanuha explained. “We are fighting to protect it because we know if we cannot stop this, there is not very much we can fight for or protect.”
Pua Case, an Indigenous organizer and one of the Mauna Kea protectors, appeared on Democracy Now! Monday to discuss why thousands of Native Hawaiians and other critics of the project are protesting.
“For the last 10 years, we have held off the project of the building of an 18-story telescope on the top of our mountain, near the summit, on a pristine area called the northern plateau, over our water aquifer and the source of water for much of this island,” said Case.
“We are making a stand as not just Native people and not just the local community, but really a worldwide community, because there are so many similarities,” she added. “There are Native people everywhere around the world standing for their mountaintops, for their waters, for their land bases, their oceans, and their life ways. We are no different than them.”
Mauna Kea is one of the most sacred mountains to the Hawaiian people. Scientists and investors are working to build a Thirty Meter Telescope atop it. But many Hawaiians haven’t consented to the construction. We spoke to frontline kia’i (protectors) about why they’re standing. pic.twitter.com/R4Z3kYe6vM
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 22, 2019
A project of the TMT International Observatory—a partnership between University of California and the California Institute of Technology, as well as institutions in Canada, China, India, and Japan—the controversial telescope would be the largest in the Northern Hemisphere.
The protests against the telescope were triggered by Democratic Gov. David Ige’s announcement on July 10 that an access road would be closed to transport equipment up the mountain.
Last Wednesday, after police in riot gear failed to clear protectors from the access road despite arresting 33 kupuna—elders—and one caregiver, Ige issued an emergency proclamation that expanded law enforcement’s power to close off parts of the mountain and manage protests.
On the mountain Sunday, activists “scheduled a variety of workshops and training sessions throughout the day,” according to Honolulu‘s Star-Advertiser. “Some of those workshops were aimed at sharing Hawaiian culture, although others were meant for practicing ‘nonviolent direct action’ in the event that law officers showed up.”
Ige raised concerns by sending some members of the National Guard to the mountain last week, but the governor has insisted they are focused on transportation and duties other than managing protests and that, as of Friday, he does not plan to call in any more troops.
Though the public is right now assured by @GovHawaii that Hawai‘i National Guard sent to #Maunakea are unarmed and will assist only with transportation and road closures, their presence creates a concern for civil rights…
— ACLU of Hawaii (@acluhawaii) July 20, 2019
The demonstrations haven’t been contained to the mountain or the Big Island. On Oahu, KHON 2 reported, about 2,000 people “marched two miles on Sunday from Fort DeRussy to the Honolulu zoo” to protest the telescope.
Solidarity actions have also popped up around the country, and as of press time, a Change.org petition demanding “the immediate halt to the construction of the TMT” was fewer than 1,000 signatures away from reaching its goal of 150,000.
— Melissa Ponder (@melponder) July 22, 2019
— Star-Advertiser (@StarAdvertiser) July 22, 2019
An open letter that has been signed by astronomers doesn’t explicitly denounce the project, but calls into question how the government and the partnership behind the telescope have handled opposition.
However, the letter does “call upon the astronomy community to recognize the broader historical context of this conflict, and to denounce the criminalization of the protectors on Mauna Kea” as well as “urge the TMT Collaboration and the government of Hawaii to desist from further arresting or charging protectors, and to remove military and law enforcement personnel from the summit.”
— March for Science (@MarchForScience) July 22, 2019
On Monday morning, Democratic Lt. Gov. Josh Green became the highest ranking public official in the state to visit the mountain amid the protests. He told reporters, “I came here today to listen and to respect people.”
“I’m here to make sure people are OK,” said Green, a physician who arrived at Mauna Kea after an emergency room shift. “I’m not here for a political statement.”
Green’s visit came after Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim went to the access road over the weekend. Kim told a crowd there that “we all see different things, but I’ll tell you how I feel: For the first time in my 80 years of life, I see a group of people finally coming together to feel proud of being who you are, because you are the most beautiful, warmest, givingest people on God’s Earth.”
Despite the local opposition, TMT International Observatory spokesperson Scott Ishikawa told Hawaii News Now on Sunday that “Mauna Kea continues to be the preferred site for TMT.”
DOJ employees urged to revolt against Bill Barr for throwing IG report ‘in the trash’ to defend Trump
On MSNBC's "AM Joy," former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne excoriated Attorney General William Barr for his partisan suppression of the inspector general's conclusions about the FBI's Russia investigation.
"Here's the problem. The inspector general has already found that the — the investigation was not motivated in the way that Bill Barr is saying it is, and he's directly taking all the work of all the people and he's throwing it in the trash," said Alksne. "And he's added this other layer of an investigation and now he's broken all the rules, because one of the rules in an investigation is you don't talk about it in the middle, and he's done that. And it's a very threatening thing to the person who did the initial investigation, and it's also a way of putting his thumb on the scale with the guy who's doing the followup investigation, [U.S. Attorney John] Durham. He was talked into issuing a press release that was completely improper."
GOP ridiculed for hyping Ohio anti-impeachment protest — and only a handful of Trump supporters showed
The official Twitter of account of the Republican National Committee was buried in mockery after hyping up a video of anti-impeachment protesters in Youngstown, Ohio, where it appears only a handful of people showed up.
According to the tweet, "Ohioans are sick and tired of the Democrats’ impeachment charade. It’s time to STOP THE MADNESS!"
However, in the video from WKBN, which can be seen below, few people chose to show up for the cameras.
As one commenter noted with tongue-in-cheek, "Thought Ohio had a few more people than that."
That was the general consensus in the comments.
GOP lawmaker scrambles for excuses after being cornered with McConnell’s promise to rig Trump impeachment
On CNN Saturday, anchor Martin Savidge confronted Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), one of Trump's biggest defenders on cable television, about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's claim that he was "coordinating" the impeachment strategy with the White House.
"Where is the impartiality there?" asked Savidge. "And it has to be a concern because, as you point out, you are an attorney and you would be worried if a member of the jury had already stated how they were going to consider."
"Yeah, we heard those comments yesterday, as everyone did," said Johnson. "You know, I've actually talked about this with some of my Democrat [sic] colleagues, those who are very much in favor of impeachment. I said isn't it a fair description of what he said? The way I heard that, Mitch McConnell is talking about the scheduling of the trial, what length of trial or what would be involved with that, with the White House, which is not unprecedented. That's what happened in the Clinton proceedings as well, they coordinated with the White House on scheduling. I don't think he's talking about the merits of the case. I think he's talking about how long will be allowed for this to go forward so I don't think there's anything inappropriate about that."