Lā 101: Maintaining Kapu Aloha even in the face of violence

The Hawaiʻi Independent   Kuʻokoʻa Alo in Thirty-Meter Telescope July 04, 2015 10:04 AM

Screen Shot 2015 07 04 At 04.13.35 PmAt least two incidents of vehicular violence have been committed atop Mauna Kea against its protectors, even as state agencies accuse protectors of endangering public safety through their blockade.

“Public safety” on the Mauna Kea access road emerged, this week, as the latest hue and cry by officials against the Mauna Kea protectors. But reports of two vehicular assaults on protectors by state and Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) security officers casts a cynical shadow on Governor David Ige’s professed concerns for the public’s safety.

The most recent vehicular assault, the hit-and-run assault of Mauna Kea protector Michael W. Kyser Jr., on Friday, June 26, is the second incident in which a protector was hit by a vehicle driven by someone ostensibly responsible for maintaining “safety” on Mauna Kea.

Kyser, 35, said he was praying while walking towards the summit at about 6 a.m. on Friday when he was struck by a gray Toyota security pick up; the side mirror glancing his body with enough force to throw him to the ground.

The collision happened well after sunrise on the dirt section of the Mauna Kea access road, about a quarter mile from the protector’s encampment at the 9,200-foot elevation of the mountain.

“I went rolling off the back of their truck, hitting the ground as they sped past,” said Kyser in a social media post following the incident. “They did not stop to check if I was alright.”

This incident follows an earlier, largely unreported, vehicular assault on Mauna Kea on October 7. It was the day of the TMT groundbreaking ceremony and Lanakila Mangauil, a prominent leader of the movement to protect Mauna Kea, was hit by a ranger’s 4Runner as he and other protectors were headed to the groundbreaking site on foot.

Mangauil said he was walking on the road, behind a woman and a young girl who were also on foot, when he heard the roar of a vehicle speeding up the road behind them.

Fearing for the safety of the woman and child, he turned to face the vehicle. But instead of slowing, it continued toward him until it struck his knees.

“Thank goodness I could jump,” said Mangauil. “I ended up on the hood. And he kept going with me on the hood.”

According to Mangauil, the ranger continued another 30 feet before finally stopping the SUV, after other protectors rushed in from the sides, one of them actually laying down in the road as a human shield.

In both of these cases, there was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the collision. Neither the drivers or their passengers have been held accountable by their employers or authorities.

Kyser said, after inspecting himself for injuries, he was at first intent on getting to the ʻahu (altar) to pray, and continued walking on the road a ways before realizing the full impact the collision had on his body.

Leaning against a guardrail, he spoke with another movement leader, Kaho’okahi Kanuha, by phone, and then to a ranger who picked him up minutes later.

Kyser was examined at a hospital that afternoon. While X-rays showed no broken bones, he has been in pain with sore muscles since the collision.

The emotional pain was worse.

According to a protector who witnessed police taking a report of the incident, the private security company driver admitted to having struck Kyser.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that the driver who stuck Kyser is still working on Mauna Kea.

“The boss hasn’t given him time off or anything. He’s still on the job,” said Kyser.

Meanwhile, Governor Ige has charged the non-violent protectors of Mauna Kea with “vandalism” and endangering public safety for placing rocks in the roadway to the summit.

Likewise, throughout the now 100-day blockade, TMT officials and supporters have consistently accused the protectors of harassing and making violent threats against TMT workers.

But even as actual violence against the protectors by TMT and Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM) employees has reached a level of potentially deadly force, neither the TMT, Governor Ige or the University of Hawaii (UH) have stepped forward to denounce it.

The lack of official response to these incidents by either Governor Ige, OMKM, UH or the TMT adds a cynical flavor to their concerns for “safety.”

Despite all of this, Kyser is maintaining kapu aloha—holding himself to absolute non-violence and humility.

“I’m not mad, I’m not angry. There’s frustration on both sides,” said Kyser. “But I’m just disappointed they didn’t stop to even check if I was alright. Driving is a privilege, so it does matter: they gotta stop [or at] least slow down.

“People need to get that through their mind that [vehicles are] a deadly weapon,” he continued. “When you see somebody on the road, it doesn’t matter if it’s their fault or your fault, you gotta stop. At least slow down. Every life is precious here.”

Kyser, who says he “found himself” in this movement, credits his experience as a protector of Mauna Kea with creating a change in thinking that now informs his behavior, whether on the mauna or off.

“Actually, ever since I’ve been up on the mauna, [it] has really changed my way of thinking; of living my life in kapu aloha,” says Kyser. “I’m a humble person. I don’t like confrontation, and I’m a man of few words. I don’t like to talk too much. Just show people through actions instead of through words, you know, how to live in humbleness.

“The kapu aloha actually broke it down more for me,” he said. “And it’s been a blessing in disguise for me. So, to keep that, with this incident going on, it’s been hard but [the kapu aloha] has taken the weight of my shoulders, and trusting that everything will be alright. Retaliation is not the way to go. It never works. Violence begets violence. Peace is the only way, and that’s pretty much the message we’re trying to get across to everybody.”