HONOLULU – Some indigenous Hawaiians oppose President Joe Biden’s election as U.S. attorney, saying Clare Connors treated dozens of elders like criminals when her office prosecuted them for blocking a road while opposing the construction of a thirty meter Telescope protested
“She has been aggressive towards the Hawaiian people throughout our work for Maunakea,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the leaders of the protests.
Pisciotta and other indigenous Hawaiians who oppose the telescope believe that the peak of Maunakea is sacred. They say the construction of the thirty-meter telescope on the highest mountain in the state would further desecrate a place that has already been desecrated by a dozen other observatories.
The 38 indigenous Hawaiian elders prosecuted for disability were between 60 and 80 years old, and many of them are community leaders. Four were found not guilty in August. One was found guilty on a separate trial last month, fined $ 500 and sentenced to one day in jail if he avoids further violations over the next six months. The other cases are pending.
Pisciotta said she was concerned about the appointment of Connors as a U.S. attorney because indigenous Hawaiians had been deprived of their land and rights to self-determination since the U.S.-sponsored overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893.
“I consider her a danger for many situations in Hawaii because she doesn’t need the compassion or aloha that is necessary in view of our political situation,” said Pisciotta.
Connors, Hawaii’s attorney general since 2019, said she was honored by the nomination but declined to comment on the pending verification process.
However, Connors spokesman Gary Yamashiroya said the prosecution of the protesters “arose out of a deliberate attempt to block access to Maunakea to prevent the lawful construction of a Hawaiian Supreme Court-approved project.”
“Blocking a public road is a crime and the Attorney General will prosecute such behavior in accordance with its duty to uphold the rule of law,” said Yamashiroya.
US Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, both Democrats, recommended Connors Biden. Spokespersons for both senators declined to comment on Native Hawaiian opposition to the Connors nomination, citing a joint statement they made when the nomination was announced on Sept. 28.
That statement said she was exceptionally skilled and confident that she was serving the people of Hawaii well.
Governor David Ige, a Democrat, and several former US attorneys for Hawaii have also praised her nomination, as have attorneys Connors has worked with in his own practice.
US attorneys are the top federal law enforcement officers in their districts.
The thirty-meter telescope would be one of the largest optical telescopes in the world. The $ 2.4 billion observatory is being planned by universities in California and Canada with the participation of the governments of China, India and Japan.
The Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory was scheduled to begin construction in 2019, a year after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the project had a valid permit.
But protesters calling themselves “Kia’i” or protectors of the mountain began camping on and near the deserted road to the summit of Maunakea in July 2019.
Even after the arrests of the elders, demonstrators persisted, at times in the thousands.
In December 2019, the Thirty Meter Telescope consortium said it was unwilling to proceed because the state and Hawaii County had not shown that they could provide “safe, permanent access” to Maunakea. TMT said it did not want to endanger its workers, the Hawaiian people, and the protesters. A small group of protesters stayed until March 2020 when they left the country amid coronavirus concerns and confidence that TMT would not build up immediately.