Here’s why TMT protesters fly a Hawaiian flag that’s upside down

Day five of the TMT protests at Mauna Kea.
Day five of the TMT protests at Mauna Kea.
Published: Jul. 26, 2019 at 11:47 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At the protest on Mauna Kea and at rallies across the state, Thirty Meter Telescope opponents have waved a Hawaiian flag ― that’s upside down.

Why? The inverted flag is an internationally recognized symbol of a nation in distress and a sign of protest to the American government.

“It’s a strong message to send visually without having to say anything,” said Douglas Askman, an associate professor of history at Hawaii Pacific University. “Without verbal communication, you can see the message they’re trying to convey.”

While the original Hawaiian Kingdom flag commissioned by King Kamehameha in 1816 incorporated designs from both the British and American flags, some have associated the upside-down flag with the Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

This political and cultural campaign is rooted in the belief that the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani in 1893 led to an illegal occupation by the United States.

And some believe Hawaii is still an autonomous body, meaning that its people should not be subject to federal courts and laws, including the decision to proceed with construction of TMT.

But not everyone who flies the inverted flag agrees with that conclusion. For some, it is just a symbol of solidarity in protecting a mountain they consider to be sacred.

Also flown on the mountain: The so-called Kanaka Maoli flag, depicting a coat of arms on green, red and yellow stripes. More background on the flag can be found here.

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