For those of us in the business of chronicling conflict in Maui County, we live in good times. For the first time since, well, that long crisis known as the Hawaii Superferry, residents and activists are regularly going into the streets to voice their displeasure at the status quo. And now they’re getting arrested doing it.
In the very early morning hours of July 31, Maui Police arrested 20 individuals attempting to block trucks at the Maui Baseyard from carrying equipment to the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) atop Haleakala. Activists had halted a similar construction from the same site a few weeks ago with no arrests. But this time was different.
“At least 30 Maui County Police officers also showed up at the site to assist in getting the trucks out of the gate,” Hawaii News Now reported a few hours after the arrests. “But when the trucks started their engines, several protesters lay down in the driveway, with their arms linked together with PVC pipes. It took officers several hours to cut through the pipes with saws. Once the pipes were cut, the protesters were arrested and taken away.”
I had known activists would be gathering at the Baseyard, just as they had previously, because they’re quite adept at sending news releases to the media. But I also knew that, this time, it was likely that not all of them would be heading straight home after the protests. Earlier, on the afternoon of July 30, the MPD’s public information office had sent out their own news release, but it was very brief and foreshadowed a world of hurt. Titled “Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope Project,” it contained just two sentences:
“Maui Police Department respects the rights for people to demonstrate peacefully,” it stated. “We will respond in an appropriate manner.”
You’ve got to admire people who know their actions will likely lead to their arrest, and yet do it anyway. While I find it appalling that the nearly completed construction telescope–a telescope! An instrument of scientific research for the betterment of all humanity!–has become a symbol of imperialism, I can’t help but respect the activists’ courage.
Later on July 31, the MPD sent out a new press release. This one included the booking photos of 18 of the 20 activists they arrested. They range in age from 19 to 60. All but one lives on Maui (the other gave a Honolulu address). All were charged with the usual list of Great Offenses Against The State: resisting arrest, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and refusal of right of way. Bail for each was set at $600.
“Officers made every attempt to have the demonstrators cooperate and clear the way for the tractor trailers to gain access onto the roadway, however, they were met with opposition,” the MPD stated. “Demonstrators laid on the ground and connected themselves with PVC pipes and chains. Officers were able to extract each individual who were then taken into custody. As a result, thirteen (13) adult males and seven (7) adult females were arrested.”
One of those arrested, Kaleikoa Ka‘eo, a Hawaiian Studies Professor at University of Hawaii Maui College, gave a defiant statement after his arrest (though the MPD booked him under the name “Samuel Kaeo”).
“Fundamentally, we are asserting our human rights,” said Kaʻeo in an Aug. 2 news release from the activists. “Actions taken Thursday night were in direct response to the National Solar Observatories [sic] desire to further desecrate and unlawfully control our sacred mountaintop. As such, we had no choice but to resist and demonstrate our demands for our humanity to be recognized and for equal protection of human rights. All people, all ages, all walks of life, participated in this action of resistance through love for the land, love for the people and love for the truth. Aloha ʻAina. ʻOiaiʻo. Kapu Aloha. This is just the beginning of things to come. The fact that MPD organized a huge police presence exposes the fact that they are fearful and threatened by an organized, educated Hawaiian movement.”
Most interestingly, activist Trinette Furtado–who was not among those arrested–denied that her comrades were “anti-science.”
“We are not anti-telescope, we are not anti-science,” she said in the same Aug. 2 news release cited above. “We are for the mountain, we are for preserving our culture. We stand for the conservation, desecration, archaeological and Hawaiian access laws which protect Haleakala.”
I noticed a similar defensiveness with the activists who protested the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks in Ka‘anapali last week. There, after hundreds gathered to criticize the secret free trade negotiations (there were no arrests),” organizer Andrea Brower insisted that the movement wasn’t about halting trade between nations.
“We aren’t opposed to trade, and we aren’t opposed to international cooperation,” Brower said in a July 29 news release she sent out herself. “What we are opposed to is economic imperialism—the writing of the rules of the global economy in order to serve solely the most dominant financial interests, always at the expense of the poorest.”
Please. Of course the protesters against the DKIST are “anti-telescope,” just as the hundreds who protested the TPP talks are against the trade deal. I don’t recall reading about activists chaining themselves together to prevent tourists from driving into Haleakala National Park to watch the sunrise, or stop the Hyatt from building a giant timeshare in Ka‘anapali.
No, the fight on Haleakala is over the DKIST telescope, pure and simple. And unlike the TPP talks, which are now history, it’s a fight that will be with us for some time to come.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons