In Hawaiʻi Governor Ige’s declaration of a “state of emergency,” or media coverage referring to the protection of Mauna Kea as a “moment” of Hawaiian activism, there emerges an implicit adherence to the view of this conflict as an “event.” In this schema of the “event,” we find that agents and causes are organized along clean binaries: sacred and profane, extractive capital and flat rejections of it, settler state logics and its alternatives like Indigenous-anarchism. But what if we see the mass movement to protect Mauna Kea not as an “event” of state violence or a moment of emergency, and instead focus on relations implicit in quotidian practice? In this article, I argue for seeing Mauna Kea not as an event, but as a structural dynamic confronting us in the guise of an event. I also show how this alternative reading of Mauna Kea, and attention to the “everday,” has ramifications for how we might theorize Kanaka ʻŌiwi struggle.
On the eve of July 17th, 2019, Governor David Ige signed and released an emergency proclamation statement. The purpose of an emergency proclamation is “to provide relief for disaster damages, losses, and suffering, and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people.” This, however, is not taking place.
The state governor issued this administrative rule to enact and exercise an extraordinary usage of police powers, at the same time, suspending current state laws and regulations. The obfuscation of this proclamatory act to adjourn current state legal regulations undoubtedly authorizes the expansion of police powers and unethically creates a policy of violence against the bodies of Kanaka Maoli protectors who are upholding, with true integrity and nonviolence, the defense of Mauna Kea. In addition, the governor’s abuse of power in issuing an emergency proclamation is unethical, disgraceful, and itself a form of aggression. Ige, in his own words from 2018, returns “to the old ways of machine politics and backroom deals, allowing special interests to outweigh the public interest and personal gain to be placed before the collective good.”
In fact, Ige’s proclamation is a “protection” for a special interest: The Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC. There is no protection for the welfare of people, both Kānaka Maoli and allies who reside in these islands. There is no relief, nor protection, from damages and losses when an obscene edifice is built on the backs of the lands, waters and native species.
Without a single cloud floating in the Mauna Kea sky, kia‘i (protectors) assembled on the morning of July 17, 2019 at Mauna Kea Access Road to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). The resolve to protect Mauna Kea from TMT was as clear as the skies above–no telescope was necessary to see this. In response, the State of Hawaii deployed police, equipped with riot batons, tear gas, guns and a Long Range Acoustic Device, to open the access road for construction crews to ascend to TMT’s build site at the northern plateau. It was the largest police operation in Hawai‘i in recent memory with officers from multiple jurisdictions across the islands. This execution of force coincided with Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige’s Proclamation to declare a State of Emergency and, in doing so, declare those safeguarding the Mauna as a threat to the state. But kia‘i were prepared, stood their ground and continued to defend this sacred mountain.