HILO — An overflow crowd of about 200 people packed a Hilo courtroom and an adjacent hallway as nine kupuna were arraigned this morning on charges they obstructed Maunakea Access Road on July 17 to prevent construction vehicles and workers from scaling Maunakea to build the Thirty Meter Telescope.
The nine, Jim Albertini, Tomas Belsky, Marie Alohalani Brown, Ana Kahoopii, Kaliko Kanaele, Carmen Hulu Lindsey, Edleen Peleiholani, Hawley Reese and Ranette Robinson, all pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor obstruction charges. They were the first of 38 individuals arrested on the third day of protests on the mountain they consider sacred.
Peleiholani, who’s known as “Aunty Tootsie,” was clad in a red blouse and ti leaf lei, bearing a red- and yellow-feathered kahili. She told Hilo District Judge Bruce Larson, “I plead not guilty of being on Hawaiian land.”
Larson ordered all nine to appear at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 20 for pre-trial conferences. Trials will presumably be set during those court dates.
The remaining 29 individuals arrested face court dates next month and in October.
Maunakea Access Road continues to be blockaded by demonstrators protesting the construction of the $1.4 billion telescope. The protesters call themselves kia’i, or protectors of the mountain.
Meanwhile, surfers will gather at beaches across the state from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday for a “Hee Nalu No Ka Mauna” to protect Maunakea, organizers said in a press release Friday.
The culmination of events will take place at noon for a paddle out at Puhi Bay (Hawaiian Village), Hilo; Laniupoko Beach Park, Maui; Makaha Beach Park, Oahu; and Waioli Beach Park (Pinetrees), Kauai.
Attendees of “He’e Nalu No Ka Mauna” are encouraged to practice “kapu aloha,” organizers said, as well as bring their own surfboards, bodyboards and canoes.
Workshops, hula, cultural protocol and Hawaiian music performances are planned.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.