HANAPEPE — Hundreds of protesters peacefully organized Friday afternoon in Hanapepe along Kaumualii Highway against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and the proposed expansion of the Maverick Helicopters at Port Allen Airport.
Protesters waved flags and sang songs as passing cars and trucks honked in support.
Protesters broadcast the gathering from their phones as they chanted “no more helicopters,” and “ku kia‘i mauna,” which means “guardians of the mountain” in Hawaiian.
Some held children on their shoulders while holding signs.
“Showing up in strength, showing up in volume, showing up united,” Chad Schimmelfennig said. “If we come united, it’s more than just about the mauna. It’s our way of life, it’s our way of living, it’s who we are. By just showing up in this strength it is showing that we are united and we are together.”
Schimmelfennig said the protesters were there to show their support for protesters atop Mauna Kea, and the mountain itself, and that it was also about what is happening on Kauai.
“We’re dealing with the protection of our pa‘akai our salt beds of Pu‘olo,” he said. “That’s a major thing going on right now on this island. So for what’s going on on Mauna Kea and pa‘akai (sea salt) and every other island like this, I think this is a clear message to the state that we’re not going to shut up and we’re going to come together whether they’re Hawaiian or not. Everybody is just coming together to protect what is sacred to us.”
Others protested for personal reasons.
“This is for pa‘akai and Mauna Kea and I have an employee pa‘akai down in Hanapepe, so it just figures two for one of why we have to protect everything,” Kahiau Niheu said. “Pa‘akai is obviously getting developed with more helicopter companies coming in and Mauna Kea being one of the bigger issues in Hawaii right now, maybe even the biggest. So much with the development and there are so many by-laws and other laws being broken like the fact that it’s an 18-story telescope in a county that only accepts a six-story building.”
Niheu added that Mauna Kea needs to be kept in the same state in which they found it.
Some people were caught off guard by the protest.
“First I thought, ‘oh my God,’ because you never know with this sort of thing if it is against haoles,” said Nieves Martinez from Argentina, who was waiting for the bus behind a wall of protesters. “I understand. It’s great that they can do it. They can say what they would like to say, but do you think that it will really stop it?”
Some were there to show they care.
“I’m here to just show my support for all of the protectors on the mountain, I’m here to show them that we care and that we love them from Kauai all the way to the Big Island. We support them around the world,” Kaleinani Buhk said while holding a flag with several friends standing nearby.
“We support our culture because it’s our culture and we care for our lahui (race, nation) and we just want to let them know that we are here for them. Even though we can’t be there, we’re here for them.”