Officials, activitists condemn ‘disrespectful’ vandalism on Mauna Kea

Photo: University of Hawaii

Graffiti at Mauna Kea is drawing anger from Native Hawaiians who regard the mountain as a sacred site.

Officials believe the words painted on the rocks and other areas are protesting the military. The words “Stop Bombing” were painted in a place known as the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve.

So what does it mean and why was it written there?

The graffiti seems to be in protest of the live fire training at Pohakuloa Training Area, which has been going on for decades. Now even those who agree with the protest say this is the wrong way to send the message.

The Pohakuloa Training Area is used by the military for live-fire training exercises; more than 100,000 acres in a plateau between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

State officials say the graffiti was done at the 10,000-foot level. The Natural Area Reserve is just alongside the main access road to the observatory.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has opened a criminal investigation and is asking the public for help.

“This is very disrespectful. Mauna Kea is a very special place scientifically, culturally, and historically. Those people who are responsible for this act did a very shameful and disrespectful thing,” said Jason Redulla, DLNR Deputy Enforcement Chief.

The vandalism was discovered on April 28.

Graffiti was also found in the area managed by the University of Hawaii’s Office of Mauna Kea Management. An outhouse was painted with the phrase “Stop D-U,” for Depleted Uranium.

Mauna Kea was the site of continuous protests in 2015 by those who considered the mountain sacred. Those protesters say this is the wrong way to voice objection over Pohakuloa.

“I wouldn’t go and put graffiti on anybody’s church or anything like that for something that is sacred. I would love to send a message to everybody that what’s happening at Pohakuloa is not the right thing, but I would never go up to the top of a sacred mountain and put graffiti to send that message,” said activist Walter Ritte.

The military says the graffiti seems to be sending the same type of message sent by protesters who were at Pohakuloa just days before the vandalism was discovered.

“It’s very troubling to us and we don’t condone any of that behavior,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Marquez, garrison commander at Pohakuloa Training Area. “We do absolutely respect the right to protest, but desecrating something as sacred as Mauna Kea is very troubling.”

The penalty for vandalizing the rocks is up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Anyone with information is asked to call 643-DLNR.

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