Sam King’s latest editorial erroneously calls for “hold[ing] TMT protestors accountable” in their “anarchic campaign against the rule of law” (“It’s Time To Hold TMT Protesters Accountable,” Nov. 22).

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Although King claims that the kiaʻi have utilized false narratives to justify their acts of malama aina, King fails to see that Mauna Kea is symbolic of a broader historical struggle for the rights of Native Hawaiians to exist.

These recent demonstrations are a focal point and encapsulate issues critical to Native Hawaiians, including questions of governance, clashes over land and water, and frustration over the over-exploitation of ancestral lands. This embodies the worst traumas enacted against Native Hawaiians, who continually practice compassion and dedication to restoring self-governance.

King’s calls for conformance to the “rule of law” constitute the continuing systematic attack on Native Hawaiian communities from private sector mega-projects in the name of “research” and “conservation.” We have been long subject to forced evictions, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention, limitations to the freedom of expression and assembly, and stigmatization resulting in the dislocation and removal from their cultural practices.

Instead, kiaʻi are actively protecting their constitutional rights to engage in customary and traditional practices shielded by Article XII, Section 7 of the Hawaii State Constitution and HRS 1-1.

Keiki head towards Pu'uhonua o Pu'u Huluhulu on July 26, 2019. Pu'uhonua o Pu'u Huluhulu was esptablished as a safe space for Kia'i to gather to peacefully resist the building of a massive telescope on land that is sacred to many Native Hawaiians.
Keiki head for breakfast and morning classes after spending the night camping out on Mauna Kea in July. For self-proclaimed protectors, the protest over the TMT is about longstanding injustices. ronitphoto

Although King claims that TMT “follow[s] the law,” his description fails to include that government officials “may not act without independently considering the effect of government actions on Hawaiian traditions and practices” that may lead to the “loss of vital cultural resources and the interference with the exercise of native Hawaiian rights.”

Additionally, under Section 5(f) of the Admission Act, the state of Hawaii (including its agencies) has a public trust duty to manage the ceded lands in part “for the betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians.”

Obligations Ignored

Four scathing state audits demonstrated the state and university’s longstanding mismanagement of resources. Although these officials take an oath to protect the interests of the public, they conveniently choose to ignore their legal obligations to protect monetary interests of corporations at the expense of our Native Hawaiian communities.

Kiaʻi have been arrested for engaging in their constitutional rights to practice their traditional and customary rights to malama aina and engage in free speech under the guise of broad and ill-defined charges, such as public disturbance, obstruction, and incitement.

Despite overwhelming evidence of the safety and order present at these demonstrations, government officials and project proponents like King continue with misinformation and propaganda to intimidate and undermine the credibility of protectors. These criminal complaints seek to suspend judicial guarantees and justify the suppression of peaceful social protests.

Additionally, King ignores the substantial dilemmas of Native Hawaiians in the criminal justice system. The prosecution of these Native Hawaiians mirror those of their indigenous comrades who are often subject to abuses like pretrial detention of the accused lasting for several years, lack of access to legal counsel to mount a viable defense, and longer and harsher sentences than their non-Hawaiian counterparts.

If preserving infrastructure research and technology company profits are the goal, there are a variety of legal tools available to law enforcement. The police response to these protests seem disproportionate at best, as demonstrated by the $10 million spent by the Hawaii County Police Department.

Ironically, although the system has agonizingly failed Hawaiians, the system is swift to devote substantial resources into criminalizing them. Our communities are crying for relief and for police supervision to be targeted to address actual growing crime in their districts. However, government officials respond with rapid, increasingly violent police responses with a swelling number of kiaʻi being arrested.

In a universal context, the rapid expansion of developmental projects on indigenous lands without their consent continues to drive a global crisis. The procedures that lead to the approval of these projects are often flawed by failing to conduct assessments of cultural and environmental impacts and engagement in proper public consultation.

These attacks seek to silence indigenous peoples voicing their opposition to projects that threaten their livelihoods and cultures. Indigenous peoples make up a disproportionate number of those targeted in retaliation for their activism — a number that has continually risen in recent years, even though indigenous peoples represent just 5% of the global population.

These demonstrations are showing all of us that another world is possible.

In short, these acts of civil disobedience are about overdue justice for Native Hawaiians. Even though King complains that TMT is frustrated because their 10-year process and public engagement efforts were “fair and consistent,” we are now forced to confront the crisis that our systems that continually privilege “advancement” of the Western scientific community, which appears willing to bulldoze any culture to further its material desires.

For 125 years, Native Hawaiians have felt ignored, disregarded, and unable to exercise governance over their own affairs in an oppressive state. Now, we seek to tackle these extraordinary injustices face on by being uplifted by our resilience and cultural history.

We are answering the calls in our naau (mind or heart) to call for a righteous home in desperate need for systemic change — to huli (turn) the system. Our conscious community is standing up for itself after decades of deplorable management of the state’s natural resources at the risk of prioritizing foreign economic interests.

These demonstrations are showing all of us that another world is possible, another way of being with one another and the earth grounded in kapu aloha and the wisdom of our kupuna is a flourishing possibility in our lifetime.

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