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LETTER: Protecting Mauna a Wakea

July 13, 2015, 1:31 PM HST
* Updated July 13, 1:34 PM
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Illegal and unconstitutional State action is a far greater threat to the community than rocks in the road.

The State proponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope are busy pumping out propaganda to smear the Protectors of the Mountain and to hide the illegal nature of the State agencies’ activity.

In the case of Mauna a Wākea, the State agencies promoting the TMT are trying to equate a few people misbehaving, out of the hundreds who have come to the Mountain as Protectors, and the righteous placement of rocks in the road, with the desecration of a sacred site and regulations that severely restrict religious practice in violation of the United States Constitution.

Taking those items one at a time, the log of the Mauna a Wākea Rangers identify a few instances of bad behavior which they attribute to the Protectors, whether there is evidence of that connection or not.

The feces smeared on the men’s bathroom wall and removal of insulation underneath the Visitor Center building are acts committed by unknown persons. Given the strong commitment of the Protectors to kapu aloha, such acts would never have been sanctioned by the Protectors holding the vigil.

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The appearance of an invasive ant species in the area where the Protectors have been holding their vigil does not prove a Protector brought in the ants. There is food where the Protectors are staying. Ants already on the Mountain or brought in by someone other than a Protector could well have been attracted to the area by that food. The appearance of the ants would in that case have nothing to do with a Protector.

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Gestures of throat slashing by one person and a threat to kill by another person are not the responsibility of the Protectors. At the time those events took place, the Visitor Center area was open to everyone, whether they embraced kapu aloha or not.

The Rangers acknowledge that most Protectors have been helpful, polite, and assisted in keeping the peace. The University spokesman said that the incidents recorded “reflect a very, very small number of people up there.”

Nevertheless, these few instances are being blown out of proportion to discredit the Protectors.

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Then, of course, there are the rocks. The only “mistake” the Protectors made related to the rocks was apologizing for their placement in the road. Those who placed the rocks had no malicious intent. They understood that there was tension building up between the aggressive enforcement officers within DLNR and the Protectors blockading the road.  Substituting rocks as the blockade removed the Protectors from directly confronting the DLNR and, therefore deescalated the situation before someone got hurt.

In the emails reported by the Hawaii Tribune Herald on Friday, July 10, 2015, it is worth noting that DLNR was developing a plan in May, long before the rocks appeared, to restrict public access to Mauna a Wākea as a means of frustrating the Protectors.  Now they are using the rocks as an excuse.

The isolated acts of bad behavior, many of which are attributed to the Protectors without proof, are manini compared to the acts of the State.

The Office of Mauna Kea Management put out rules for religious practice that required any practitioner wishing to ascend the Mountain, to pule (pray) or otherwise engage in spiritual practice, to be present at 1:00 p.m. as the only time available. No more than ten people could go up and their practice was limited to one hour.  A Ranger had to accompany the group.

These obviously unconstitutional limitations on religious practice contrasted with the water trucks, nitrogen trucks, astronomers, and others who could go up and down the Mountain without restrictions. That different treatment of those not engaged in religious practice means that the limitations imposed amount to religious discrimination and violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guaranteeing equal protection of the law.

The restrictions enforced by the Rangers are part of a plan orchestrated by the Governor and the Attorney General to drive the Protectors off of the Mountain and suppress their exercise of First Amendment rights to assemble and petition for redress of grievances.

In the emails reported by the Hawaii Tribune Herald, you see State officials trying to figure out how they can stop the movement to protect the Mountain while disguising their efforts as general regulatory actions. They clearly want to target the Protectors while hiding that intent. The Attorney General is part of this effort to use regulatory powers in a manner designed to evade constitutional requirements.

Outlaw State agencies actively suppressing religion and political dissent are far more dangerous to the community than any bad behavior on the part of isolated individuals. To try to misdirect public attention away from the lawless behavior of State agencies by making a big deal out of not much is an effort to minimize the seriousness of the State violations taking place.

Lanny Sinkin, Ali’i Mana’o Nui, Kingdom of Hawai’i

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