As students and non-students of Hawai'inuiakea marched down the aisle, their oli pulsed through the arena. 

Dressed in ceremonial kihei or garment, something else stands out, white sashes draped down their body with bold messages in bold letters, reading A'ole TMT.

The sashes were in opposition of the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island, and the students weren't the only ones wearing it.

"We had faculty from English, faculty from political science from Pacific Island Studies, we had ethnic studies, oceanography, as well as education and engineering," Portillo said.

Masters graduate and protester Leilani Portillo said the grad day display was a continuation of a student and staff-led protest from last December.

"We want to hold UH accountable to its desecration of Mauna Kea specifically the TMT and to have the message a little bit more clear," Portillo said.

With nearly 80 sashes proudly worn by protesters, one was left behind center stage on the podium.

"It was definitely off the script. It surprised everybody. But I think it pushed the message even more," Portillo said.

Even though Portillo said planting the sash on the podium was unplanned what's more important is the conversation that'll come from it.

Scott Ishikawa, spokesperson for TMT released the following statement:

"There are many different perspectives about Mauna Kea, and we respect all views and beliefs. TMT and many others have learned a lot over the last 10-plus years and we have joined these many others in being good stewards of the mountain."

Portillo knows the fight to protect the mountain against planned construction is far from over. 

"We are willing to protect Mauna Kea all the way through. This is more of a justice issue than it is a Pacific Islander issue," Portillo said. 

She said she's willing to go the distance. 

University of Hawaii at Manoa President David Lassner said in response to the sashes that no one in the UH Administration or the commencement committee had any problems with the silent protest. "Great universities embrace diverse viewpoints," President Lassner said. 

Over 2,200 students participated in the 2019 Spring commencement and 3.5% of the students, 80 in total, wore the sashes.