MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A huge rally at the University of Hawaii at Manoa on Friday drew hundreds of critics of the Thirty Meter Telescope. They left behind a reminder of their deep-seated opposition on the lawn outside the administration building.
One by one, dozens of stones headed from the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies down Dole Street. The rocks passed through hundreds of hands before becoming part of the ahu, or altar, near Bachman Hall.
"This is not only a political statement, but more importantly, a spiritual thing," explained activist Walter Ritte. "Everybody put their mana because they touched and put their mana into the stones so this will probably be here for a long, long time."
The rally drew a large crowd of students and community members opposed to the construction of the telescope on Mauna Kea.
"We just like the people come together for one purpose and that's to support Mauna a Wakea and the Aloha Aina Warriors," said Kaina Makua, a taro farmer from Kauai.
"What the university has done to move these projects along, what the state has done to approve them, what investment money is doing to prolong them, is wrong. It shouldn't be done," said UH Manoa professor Jonathan Osorio.
UH officials said the school respects the rights of all the demonstrators.
"Everyone's voice needs to be heard and we want people to speak up and share their opinions. That's essential to the role of an institution of higher education," said spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.
After 31 arrests on Mauna Kea, Governor David Ige announced on Tuesday that construction on the $1.4 billion project would halt for at least a week for further dialogue.
"There are discussions happening at the highest levels of University of Hawaii leadership, state and county governments. This is an extremely important issue. Everyone understands that and everyone is working on finding the best path forward," said Meisenzahl.
"I'm truly deeply hurt to see a place of my people getting revoked and getting hurt by people who don't understand the true essence of what the place stands for," said demonstrator Kamalei Aweau.
Another rally is scheduled for this Sunday at noon at Iolani Palace.