Opponents of TMT project protest outside key financial backer in California

TMT opponents in California's Bay area disrupted the office of one of the project's biggest supporters

PALO ALTO, Calif. (HawaiiNewsNow) - TMT opponents in California’s Bay area disrupted business Tuesday at the office of one of the biggest financial backers of the controversial telescope.

From 6 a.m. to noon, dozens of Thirty Meter Telescope opponents blocked two separate entrances to the parking lot at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto.

The protest included Stanford University students from Hawaii, including Ma’ili Yee.

“We decided to escalate because the foundation refuses to meet with us and acknowledge their participation in the project that is so destructive for people,” Yee said.

Organizer Britt Yap said frustrated foundation employees and others who work in the building drove off. “We didn’t tell them they couldn’t come in. They just couldn’t park here today. You can park somewhere else and go into the building,” she said.

Police arrived on scene, but after peaceful discussions, they left and there were no arrests.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation says it did not call police, but neighbors may have.

“We recognize the strong feelings in support and in opposition to this project. We respect everyone’s perspective and the right of all to express their points of view,” wrote Holly Potter, chief communications officer for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

The foundation has pledged $250 million to the Thirty Meter Telescope.

"It is the unexpected discoveries that TMT will make that will likely be the most exciting," said the foundation's website.

TMT opponents have organized protests in California before, but said they wanted to increase the pressure to stop the TMT from building at Mauna Kea.

"The money and the power is really coming from California, the board members, the investors, it's all here in California and we see it all playing out in the mauna," said Yap.

With the Mauna Kea stalemate going on more than 90 days, business and legislative leaders say they’re worried about the dispute dragging on even though the state has given TMT the green light to build.

“Any time it goes against that then we do have a concern because we do need certainty and stability when running a business and our state needs continuing investment in our economy,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

House Speaker State Rep. Scott Saiki added that he’s concerned the state is “losing sight of the importance of law in our society. What law means and whether or not people need to abide by the a law."

The question now is will opponents of the telescope protest at TMT headquarters, which is in Pasedena, California. That’s unclear, but there’s word of training in non-violent direct action training in San Diego.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.