Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who spent part of his high school years in Hawaii, met with protesters in Honolulu Wednesday who are attempting to stop plans to build a telescope at Mauna Kea — the highest point in the state. Native Hawaiians consider the site a sacred place and Johnson used his massive star power to make a difference in bringing attention to the cause.
"I stand with you," Johnson told the protesters to cheers, reports the Associated Press. "This is such a critical moment and a pivotal time. Because the world is watching."
"I wanted to come here and see our people and stand with them and support them," Johnson also told reporters, according to Hawaii News Now. "What I realized today, and obviously I've been following this for years now, is that it's bigger than a telescope. It's humanity. It's culture. It is the people of Polynesia who are willing to die here to protect this land. It's not about stopping progress. It's about respecting a culture."
The protesters have been blocking construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope for more than 10 days, and Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim is organizing meetings with Native Hawaiian leaders. He hopes the two sides can reach a common goal to avoid creating a "very splintered community."
"We do not want this to become the cause of a polarized community," Kim, Gov. David Ige's envoy to the protesters, told the AP. "That to me is a main issue here."
Kim said much of the "pain and anger" coming from protesters dates to how previous governments treated the Native Hawaiian population since the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893. He called the telescope impasse "an opportunity to be better and I hope we take advantage of it."
Thirteen telescopes are already on the mountain, and they postponed operations while protesters continue to block the roads. Gemini Telescope technicians were stopped Tuesday, and had to get in overnight.
On Thursday, Kim promised protesters that construction would not immediately start if they clear camp.
"And if it takes assuring them there will be no sneaking in of any construction people or equipment, I have to assure that that will not happen," Kim said, reports Hawaii News Now. "Everything you see has to be based on what we say, and I will work to get their damn trust."
Ige told HNN he picked Kim to be his envoy to the protesters because of his personal connection to the island.
"This was something that the mayor and I talked with at length," Ige said. "We thought that having Harry support me in this capacity would be the best way to talk about the challenges and find the best way forward."
Johnson is now developing a film about King Kamehameha the Great, who united the islands in 1810. The movie will be directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Braveheart screenwriter, Randall Wallace.
Photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images