Thousands march to send message to astronomers, visitors about 'sacred space' construction

Published: Aug. 9, 2015 at 9:34 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 10, 2015 at 8:37 AM HST
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Thousands of Aloha Aina advocates marched down Waikiki on Sunday striving to send a message to visiting astronomers and tourists. 
Critics of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) have been holding a vigil atop Mauna Kea for 137 days now. But on Sunday morning, many of them brought their concerns to the busy streets of Waikiki, the hub of Hawaii’s tourism industry.
“Coming out in numbers to show that we care about what is going on because for so long people have named us as complacent, as ignorant, as standing on the side and watching as everything goes on here. But we're standing up and saying no, this is wrong," said Kauluponookaleileihua Luuwai.
Luuwai said their goal is to stop large construction projects in spaces around the state they consider sacred, ones like the Thirty Meter Telescope set to be built atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island and a half-completed telescope on the summit of Haleakala on Maui.
Sunday’s march down Kalakaua Avenue was specifically aimed toward the more than 2,500 astronomers attending the International Astronomical Union conference at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Mary Beth Laychak, Outreach Program Manager at Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope (CFHT), said the TMT is a fantastic advancement for science. But she believes astronomers and the Aloha Aina advocates share many of the same concerns.  
"Stewardship of the mountain is something that's really important to us, road safety is really important to us, all of these issues. I think there's a lot of more overlap than there is differences on some issues and what we really hope to do is create dialogue around the areas where we agree," Laychak said.
Florida visitor Dana Marra says she was moved by Sunday’s march.
"If the land is sacred to the local people of Hawaii, I think they ought to do everything they can to protect it and walking through Waikiki in front of people from all over the world is an amazing way to reach out," Marra said.

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