U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard wants the Thirty Meter Telescope halted for now and for both sides to come together to talk things out. Her Hawaii counterpart, Rep. Ed Case, expressed his continued support for building the project.
A tweet from Bernie Sanders expressing solidarity with the protesters at the mountain made the news media and social media rounds Friday morning before mysteriously being deleted several hours later.
Other prominent politicians shared their views on the protracted standoff on the Big Island as the protests reached Day 5. There is still no TMT construction equipment yet on the summit and a lot of guessing as to when the state and Hawaii County would enforce Gov. David Ige’s pledge to move forward on the project.
Sanders, the independent U.S. senator from Vermont running for president in 2020 as a Democrat, caught a lot of attention with his simple tweet: “I stand with Native Hawaiians who are peacefully demonstrating to protect their sacred mountain of Mauna Kea.”
His tweet piggybacked on one from former Hawaii state Rep. Kaniela Ing, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year.
Sanders has a lot of supporters in Hawaii, especially the Big Island. In 2016 he defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s presidential preference poll.
Case and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) were the first members of the state’s delegation in Congress to speak out.
“I support the continuation of world-class astronomy on Mauna Kea, including completion of the TMT, together with the commitment to the removal of five current telescopes and to broader community engagement,” Case said Thursday.
Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono. This is about something much greater than the TMT project — it has to do with longstanding history on Mauna Kea, broken promises, desecration of sacred land and disrespect for native culture. #KuKiaiMaunapic.twitter.com/dQLS16OMyy
And here’s what Hirono said Thursday: “Like everyone in Hawaii, I am concerned for the safety of the protectors — including kupuna — who are exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest at Maunakea. This project has undergone a significant and thorough regulatory and legal review, and I respect that process.”
Gabbard released a short video Friday afternoon that said in part, “I urge Governor Ige to withdraw the emergency declaration, delay any new construction, and bring leaders together from both sides in the spirit of aloha to hooponopono and determine the best path forward.”
TMT protester Andre Perez earlier remarked that Gabbard had been oddly silent on TMT, given that she showed up in person for the Standing Rock pipeline protest in North Dakota in 2016.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), meanwhile, did not respond to Civil Beat’s media inquiry about the TMT project.
State Sen. Kai Kahale, a Democrat who represents Hilo in Hawaii Island and who is running for Gabbard’s 2nd District seat, wrote a letter to Gov. David Ige on Friday asking for a moratorium on the construction of the TMT for 60 days.
“It’s time for a cooling off period,” Kahele told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “I think it’s time to de-escalate this situation. I think it’s time for hooponopono (mediation and conciliation). I think it’s time to have meaningful conversations for the future of Maunakea. And I think it’s time for people cool off, both sides, before things get out of control.”
Update: Our media partner KITV reported Friday that Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the National Guard on Mauna Kea should only be deployed if there is no other way to protect life and safety.
“In my opinion no single project, not any, is important enough to allow ourselves to damage the fabric of our Ohana in Hawaii,” Green wrote on Facebook.
Green said that he believes the struggle is more about dignity “than it is about a telescope.”
In the coming days/weeks I will be personally meeting with Protectors, Kupuna, thought leaders, my family that has engaged in this struggle, elected leaders and citizens with any view on this critical issue for Hawaii.
I will meet people where they fight for liberty, on the mountain if asked, on the streets, in my office (which is your office too) on long walks, wherever necessary.
I do this because if there is some path to harmony, we should find it together.
Another politician far from Hawaii shared her manao on the mauna.
“There is something special and powerful happening in America, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted Friday. “From Puerto Rico to Hawaii, people are coming together to protect their dignity, rights, + sacred land w massive, peaceful, collective action. It is something to behold.”