Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a The Rock, joined fellow Hawaiians on Wednesday in a peaceful protest against the construction of a giant telescope on top of a dormant volcano.
The actor, who is of Samoan descent and grew up in Honolulu, headed to the protest site on Mauna Kea during what has become the 10th day of peaceful protests against plans to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on a place that many natives consider sacred.
“I stand with you,” Johnson told a crowd on their 10th day protesting. “This is such a critical moment and a pivotal time, because the world is watching,” he said during his surprise appearance.
“What I realized today… it’s bigger than the telescope. It’s humanity. It’s the culture. It’s our people, Polynesian people, who are willing to die here to protect this land… this very sacred land that they believe in so powerfully,” Johnson added, as per HuffPost.
The former WWE star greeted his fellow protesters and met up with the leader of the TMT opposition group. People have been trying to halt the construction since July 15, when it was supposed to kick off. Demonstrators have chained themselves to the gates of the construction site to prevent the builders from entering, with as many as 30 activists, including elderly Hawaiians, being arrested in the first few days.
The crowds, which have reached numbers upward of 3,000, have received support from several celebrities, including Johnson, Aquaman star Jason Momoa, and former Pussycat Dolls Nicole Scherzinger — all Hawaiian natives. Johnson argued that charging ahead “isn’t the way to do it,” and that the government should take action as the number of protesters keeps growing.
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The Mauna Kea site is of interest to astronomers as it provides clear visibility and little light pollution, with its 13,796-feet summit. The 18-story-tall telescope would become the largest optical telescope in the Northern Hemisphere, but it wouldn’t be alone there as Mauna Kea is already home to 13 telescopes, as reported by The Daily Mail.
Governor David Ige issued an emergency declaration limiting public access to the mountain, but demonstrators slapped him with a lawsuit claiming that infringes the rights of those who wish to pray on the sacred site. Many of the activists do not want this to be a battle between science and cultural conservation, yet tensions appear to be escalating daily.
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ALOHA ALWAYS WINS. I encourage all my OHANA friends and fans to show the world that we are not backing down from TMT –we are and will always be Non-violent and Aloha –so if they come at us we will stay in Peace but we will stand! The world is watching. Show me your love post picture of yourself and spread the awareness and aloha. #AlohaAlwaysWins #wearemaunakea Aloha Nui j
“A greater leadership has to step in. There needs to be leadership with empathy. The whole idea about this [protest] is not about stopping progress. It’s not about stopping science. It’s about respecting a culture and respecting people and doing things the right way,” Johnson said.