Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson was in Hawaii Wednesday to support protesters blocking construction of a giant telescope on Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea.
Dancers performed hula and chants as Johnson arrived at the protest site. News broadcasts and social media sites showed him exchanging nose-to-nose greetings, called honi, with protesters.
The former WWE star said he was honoured to be there.
“I stand with you,” he told the crowd.
“This is such a critical moment and a pivotal time. Because the world is watching,” Johnson said to loud cheers.
Johnson, who is Samoan and not Hawaiian, spent part of his childhood in Honolulu. He’s due to star as King Kamehameha the Great, the leader who unified the Hawaiian Islands in 1810, in an upcoming movie from his production company titled The King.
“The world is watching,” Johnston told reporters. “And the world is saying we should take a pause. This is where care and decency and love and respect for not only culture but for humanity really comes into play.”
Johnson said he realized as he was leaving that “it is much more than a telescope.”
“It is people who have so much pride and are willing to sacrifice everything they have to protect something so incredibly sacred to them,” the Hobbs & Shaw actor said. “Mauna Kea represents all of Hawaii.”
The actor’s visit came on the 10th day of the protest blocking a road to prevent construction crews from reaching Mauna Kea’s summit to build the Thirty Meter Telescope.
WATCH BELOW: Giant telescope the focus of Hawaii protest
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, who is the governor’s envoy to the protesters, said he’s organizing the first of many meetings with Native Hawaiian leaders.
Kim told the Associated Press he wants to get people to work together for what he hopes will be a common goal. He said there will be “a very splintered community” if that doesn’t happen.
“We do not want this to become the cause of a polarized community,” Kim said. “That, to me, is a main issue here.”
Kim said he was also talking to law enforcement to go over policies and goals with them.
The mayor said a lot of “pain and anger” was coming out in the protests in reflection of how successive governments have treated the Hawaiian people since the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893.
The 13 telescopes already on the mountain have suspended nighttime observations and other operations while the road is blocked because they can’t be sure they’ll be able to get staff to the summit.
On Tuesday, protesters prevented Gemini telescope technicians from going to the summit to perform maintenance but the workers were able to ascend the mountain to do the work overnight.
In Canada, an Indigenous group wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to withdraw Canadian government funding for the project.
The Canadian Press reports the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said Ottawa’s support for the telescope runs counter to its commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous people.
Canada’s National Research Council is a partner in the US$1.4-billion project along with universities in California and national observatories in China, India and Japan.
Canada has committed to providing up to $243.5 million for the project over a 10-year period.
—With files from the Associated Press