A sea of hae Hawai‘i rose over the fields of the War Memorial ballpark Saturday as an estimated 7,000 participants gathered in support of the kia‘i, or protectors of Maunakea. “We’re here because the Mauna has called,” said Kumu Luana Kawa‘a, welcoming the crowd. “This one thing has brought us together in lokahi and we mahalo for that… that we can come together and malama our mauna and malama our lahui.”
Organizer Mahina Martin echoed the call for unity and solidarity with the kia‘i who are protecting Maunakea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, which many believe would desecrate a sacred mountain, damage a conservation zone, and deepen the wounds of colonization. In the face of an issue that has become divisive due to strong feelings and a sense that both sides are mutually exclusive and thus unable to compromise, Martin celebrated the opportunity “for us to come together in unity… to tell Maunakea and kia‘i there that we are here with them.”
Her sentiment was shared by marchers throughout the morning. In unity, they sang and chanted from War Memorial to UH Maui College, waving hae Hawai‘i and proudly showing their demonstration signs that held statements like “Hawai‘i has united. A‘ole TMT.”
“This issue has united us like nothing else has,” one marcher told me, with hope that the unity displayed at the event would be a catalyst for further action and advancement for the Hawaiian community.
Even the Maui Police Department and other government organizations, seemingly at odds with the kia‘i as the State of Hawai‘i promotes the Thirty Meter Telescope’s construction on Maunakea, lent their support. Westbound lanes of Ka‘ahumanu Ave. were closed for the duration of the march, and organizers procured permits for the event. Martin called the coordination the product of a successful effort to work with MPD, State Department of Transportation, UH Maui College, and the County Parks Department. “It was an opportunity to reflect kapu aloha by having open discussions with them and recognizing that our actions through the march could impact our own community,” she said.
As the thousands descended on the UHMC campus, they were greeted at the gate by the sounds of traditional drumming, and further down the college’s Great Lawn the Sons of Yeshua played reggae infused with messages to protect Maunakea.
Eventually, speakers Ke‘eaumoku Kapu, Kahele Dukelow, Tiare Lawrence, Kaleikoa Ka‘eo, and Kaho‘okahi Kanuha took the stage.
Kanuha, who has become a vocal leader in the movement to protect Maunakea and deoccupy Hawai‘i, was the last to speak. He ended with a call for further unified action and kapu aloha in opposing the TMT and protecting Maunakea.
“Kapu aloha is too powerful. With that much people, and with this strong of a commitment to peace and non-violence, they [the state] have no justification to escalate their force and their use of force,” Kanuha said. “And if they’re not able to escalate the use of force against us, we’re not going anywhere. It took them two hours to arrest 30-something kupuna. Imagine if we get 300 people in the road; imagine we get 900 people in the road. Imagine if we get 3,000 people on the road. Imagine we have 10,000 people in the middle of the road: They just going home.”
“This is the time,” Kahuna said. “Let’s do it and let’s send TMT out of Hawai‘i.”
Cover design by Darris Hurst and Albert Cortez
Cover image by Jen Russo
Other images by Axel Beers