HONOLULU (KHON2) — It was one of the biggest demonstrations seen so far, close to 2000 kiaʻi, who call themselves the protectors of Mauna Kea, marched two miles on Sunday from Fort DeRussy to the Honolulu zoo.
Hema Yam-Lum said he planned the march last week with his ohana.
“For me, Waikiki is a destination that everyone throughout the world comes to, so why not have Hawaiians back in it?” Yam-Lum said.
Thousands marched down busy Kalakaua Avenue. Honolulu police directed traffic while on-lookers watched and filmed.
“We need grassroots movements like this to get the world to know we have to protect sacred places,” Yam-Lum said.
Many visitors had no idea what was going on.
Some even thought it was a holiday.
Others didn’t feel comfortable talking about it and said they were looking on the internet to learn more about the march.
One Austrian couple said they too have sacred places in Austria that they would want to protect.
“I think it’s a good thing,” the visitors said.
The demonstrations over the past week have gained international attention, some say more so than back in 2015.
“Because we are four years out, I’m hoping a lot more people are educated, a lot of people have prepared themselves correctly,” Yam-Lum said.
“It’s never been as overwhelming as this, as heartwarming as this, you can feel the aloha and it’s just an amazing feeling to be reunited with everybody,” said Kehau Chong, Mauna Kea protector.
“Everyone is recognizing our history as Hawaiian people, it’s just a lot to finally have other people from other areas, not just Hawaii, recognize our history,” she said. “People are finally being educated on what’s happened in the past and now it’s finally come to surface.”
There are others who are for TMT and believe the project will bring good to Hawaii.
“We’re very fortunate they have chosen Big Island to build this telescope,” said Dean Au, Hawaii regional council of carpenters Hilo district. “The opportunity it will provide in jobs and education it’s enormous and the benefits will carry on for decades and decades.”
TMT says it will continue to fight to stay in Hawaii.
“Mauna Kea continues to be the preferred location for TMT, and we have a lot of supporters in Hawaii and they are asking us not to leave but we also acknowledge this is not going to sit well with some,” said TMT spokesperson Scott Ishikawa.
“We recognize people have expressed strong emotion about that and we do regret that,” he said.
“I think like everyone else we just want to find a way forward for everybody at this point,” he said.
HPD blocked off some lanes on Kalakaua to make sure people stayed on the sidewalks. Kalakaua near Monsarrat was closed briefly while the kiaʻi finished their march. Traffic did start to build around that time, but police re-opened the road again around 12:30 p.m.