Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on Wednesday joined a protest by indigenous Hawaiians against plans to build a massive telescope on the Mauna Kea volcano Wednesday.
“What I realized today … it’s bigger than the telescope,” the actor told assembled reporters. “It’s humanity. It’s the culture, it’s our people, Polynesian people, who are willing to die here to protect this land … this very sacred land that they believe in so powerfully.”
Protesters have been demonstratingnear the peak of the volcano, which is considered sacred ancestral land, since July 15, the scheduled date for the beginning of construction on the telescope.
The actor and semi-retired professional wrestler is of partial Samoan ancestry and spent part of his high school years in Honolulu.
Hundreds have joined the protest and prevented construction despite the arrest of over 30 protesters in the initial days of the protest, according to HuffPost.
Johnson told reporters the growing numbers of demonstrators illustrated the stakes for indigenous Hawaiians.
“When things escalate to that emotional apex, that is a sign that something has to be done,” he said, according to HuffPost. “To full charge ahead isn’t the way to do it.”
The project has been controversial since its announcement in 2009, and Johnson’s fellow Hollywood actor Jason Momoa, who is of partial Native Hawaiian descent, also spoke out against the telescope’s construction in 2015.
Backers of the project say the height of the volcano’s peak will give the 18-story telescope an ideal vantage point.
“The whole idea about this [protest] is not about stopping progress. It’s not about stopping science. It’s about respecting a culture and respecting people and doing things the right way,” Johnson told reporters, according to HuffPost.