Around 300 people gathered at the Hawaii State Capitol on Thursday evening to express their support for the Thirty Meter Telescope. Many said they felt the anti-telescope actions underway on Mauna Kea were obscuring broad support for the project.
Jasmine Silva, who flew in from Hawaii Island, was one of those in attendance. Silva, who grew up in Hilo and now works on Mauna Kea, credits her interest in science to the presence of astronomy in her community.
“Astronomy being in my community, all of the astronomy outreach events, inspired me to go into STEM. I did robotics in High School and then later studied astronomy and physics,” she said.
Silva has other reasons for supporting the TMT, but educational opportunities are a big part of it. That was a stance echoed by career educator Holly Lindsay. She holds a doctorate and has taught at every level, from pre-school to university.
“I don’t want our children, our grandchildren going to the mainland because they have no venue here. We have to look to the future, it is not desecration. I know astronomers who treat the mountain with so much reverence. What Mauna Kea has brought to the science of astronomy is remarkable, it’s unprecedented. That’s why we’re fighting over this.”
The rally was organized by Honolulu attorney and former candidate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Samuel Wilder King the Second.
“The story of the Hawaiian people and Hawaii is a story of confidence, it’s a story of courage. It’s a story about navigating over the horizon by the stars. It’s a quest for knowledge and the TMT is all about the search for knowledge. And that’s why I want to be here. I want people to know, I don’t want them to run scared. I want them to see: the native Hawaiians are here. The protesters don’t own our story, we can tell our own story and it’s ok to come out and be in favor of this. It’s not a desecration, it’s not the oppression of the Hawaiian people.”
Across the street, opponents of the TMT organized their own counter-rally. There was some intermixing of the two groups, but for the most part they kept their distance. Both sides remained peaceful.