×

Mauna Kea protest convoy treks from Lahaina to Kahului Airport

200 people and more than 50 vehicles join in

Ke‘eaumoku Kapu, organizer of the mobile convoy from Lahaina to Kahului Airport, waves to Mauna Kea supporters as they circle around the airport terminals on Monday afternoon. The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN photo

KAHULUI — A convoy of more than 50 vehicles carrying 200 participants proceeded from Lahaina to Kahului Airport with flags flying and horns honking on Monday afternoon in opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope at Mauna Kea.

Maui police had posted an advisory on its Facebook page Sunday night urging those flying out Monday to give themselves extra time to get to the airport and terminals due to the anticipated protest convoy. Airport officials said Monday afternoon that there were no disruptions with the flow of traffic, passengers or flights at the airport, the second busiest in the state.

“We did not come here to oppress anybody that is coming in or going out,” said Ke’eaumoku Kapu, organizer of the demonstration, on Monday afternoon.

“I think right now we’re in an observance, and the observance is the continual crimes that are being committed among our people, and one of those is the message being sent from Mauna Kea.

“It’s not just on Maui, it’s a statewide issue,” Kapu added, while standing outside the terminals.

A line of cars flow through the Kahului Airport on Monday afternoon, protesting the Thirty Meter Telescope being built on Mauna Kea. The mobile convoy started in Lahaina at 1 p.m. and arrived at the airport around 2:30 p.m. The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN photo

The convoy left Na Aikane O Maui in Lahaina around 1 p.m. The line of vehicles on Honoapiilani Highway stopped at Maalaea Small Boat Harbor, the North Kihei Road junction and in Waikapu while accumulating more protesters.

The convoy drove past the county and state buildings in Wailuku, then proceeded down Kaahumanu Avenue to the Burger King parking lot next to the Old Kahului Shopping Center before heading to the airport.

Kapu said that his group met with the Maui Police Department at 10 a.m. prior to the demonstration to discuss rules and regulations of a civil, safe and peaceful protest in a motor vehicle.

A similar mobile protest convoy occurred Sunday in Honolulu with hundreds of vehicles proceeding with police escorts from Hawaii Kai to Maili Beach Park.

“We’re all in conjunction to make sure that if anything does go down” with the protesters on Mauna Kea “that the state really needs to consider where this thing is going to end up,” Kapu said.

Kapu

“I’m just one of the leaders that represent the total or whole population that is happening up at Mauna Kea, and we feel that we need to do our part because a lot of us can’t be there on the Mauna,” he continued.

About five police officers monitored the airport while other officers were stationed at the main highway entrances and exits. Airport security also helped to direct the flow of traffic and pedestrian crossings.

Kahului Airport officials were aware of the convoy and prepared 10 parking stalls for those participating in the demonstration and to accommodate those who needed additional assistance or wheelchair access.

“We brought a few of our officers to assist with traffic control,” said Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz. “We also got extra help from the MPD.

“Basically, we’re supposed to keep the traffic going and to make sure that our locals and our visitors can come and go without disruptions.”

Peaceful protesters demonstrate against the Thirty Meter Telescope being built on Mauna Kea on a walkway near the entrance to the Kahului Airport on Monday afternoon. The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN photo

There were no anticipated flight disruptions, Moniz said Monday afternoon.

“The traffic is flowing, and they’ve been pretty respectful about making sure they aren’t causing any disruption,” he said.

The convoy arrived at the airport around 2:30 p.m. and circled the airport’s outer lanes for two hours.

“We tell the state, the county, the mayor, the governor that it’s about time we stop playing this childish game of what is yours versus what is ours, and start addressing the problem,” Kapu said.

A “statewide observance march” is slated for the beginning of October, he added.

“I think this one is going to be bigger because it will include every island,” he said. “We need to do these things in order to convince the leaders that represent us to start sitting at the forefront of the table.”

Since July 15, hundreds of protesters have massed at the beginning of the access road to the summit of Mauna Kea in a civil protest to block the construction of the $1.4 billion TMT telescope. While the telescope builders have the permits to proceed, some Native Hawaiians consider Mauna Kea sacred and the TMT a desecration. TMT also has been the lightning rod for other Native Hawaiian issues, from sovereignty to preservation of the culture and the language.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.