Both sides of TMT debate hold dueling rallies in Honolulu, Hilo

Updated: Jul. 26, 2019 at 12:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Same time, same place ― but two very different views on the future of where the Thirty Meter Telescope should be built.

On Thursday, supporters and opponents of the project lined opposite sides of South Beretania Street in front of the state Capitol to make sure their voices are heard.

TMT supporter Malia Martin said those in favor of the telescope feel “intimidated.”

“I had to get a permit so we could get a safe spot with police to walk around. In the meantime, students at the University of Hawaii, University of Hilo, have to coward down and be in the closet about being for TMT,” she said.

But Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, who is against the TMT, said those protesting the telescope are intimidating. They’re making sure politicians hear them.

“What we do is not meant to intimidate people. What we do is meant to reinforce, reinvigorate, to energize and uplift the hearts and the spirits of our people,” Wong-Kalu said.

Those against the project say construction of the telescope will desecrate Mauna Kea, a mountain they consider sacred. But TMT supporters say the $1.4 billion telescope will create jobs and enhance astronomical research in the community.

“It’s tearing everybody apart. I’m losing friends,” said project supporter Glennon Kuuipo Kealoha Ahulau. “All of a sudden people want to go up there and do their religious thing. Why now?”

Dueling rallies were also held in Hilo on Thursday at the intersection of Hawaii Belt Road and Makaala Street.

Brialyn Onodera, who was born and raised in Hilo, works for a telescope on Haleakala. She said she would love to work at home one day.

“I wish everyone would just come together and have a productive conversation about the best way to move forward,” Onodera said. “Because it seems like a lot of people want it to just an end goal of no TMT but I feel more people are willing to compromise.”

TMT board members say they are not backing out, but neither are their opponents.

"We will stand strong until the last aloha aina,” said Wong-Kalu.

The last scientific poll on opinions on the TMT was done by the Star Advertiser in 2018. It showed about three-fourths of residents support the project.

It’s unclear what the numbers would show today, but it’s obvious both sides are gaining momentum.

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