MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -
A small group of activists started a blockade against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea ten days ago. Now, its a growing encampment.
Organizers estimate as many as 300 people lined the summit access road Friday, showing their opposition to the controversial $1.4 billion telescope.
"To see just so many people gathered, it was so uplifting," said organizer Lanakila Mangauil. "It looked like there was a whole Mauna Kea festival going on."
There was also added star power, as Hawaii native and Hollywood actor Jason Momoa flew in and met with protesters, and also made his way up to the summit to learn more about the situation.
The protest is now attracting Native Hawaiian leaders from all over the state.
"The movement of our brothers and sisters here on Hawaii island had put the call out to all of our islands, and so I came from Oahu to support this," said cultural practitioner Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu.
"That's due to this, it's due to the people," said protester Kahookahi Kanuha. "This is not only a Mauna Kea thing anymore, this is not only a Hawaii island thing any more. In fact, this is not even a Ko Hawai`i Pae `Aina thing. It's not an all Hawaiian islands issue, this is a worldwide issue."
Kanuha was one of the 31 people arrested Thursday for blocking construction crews heading to the summit, disobeying police orders, or trespassing at the work site.
"The arrests that are being made is really, in my judgment, a kind of an 'in your face' provocation to Native Hawaiians, that a construction schedule is more important than people," said Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Peter Apo.
Apo is calling for construction on the telescope to be halted for 30 days. If construction continues, protest organizers predict even more people will join the rally next week, when Hilo fills up with Native Hawaiians for the Merrie Monarch Festival.
"You have a whole bunch of natives and people rallying against your construction," said Mangauil. "It would be silly to do it when you have a gathering that masses the natives. You know, like Merrie Monarch."