• The Thirty Meter Telescope has been delayed by years of legal battles and demonstrations. (TMT Observatory Corporation)Source: TMT Observatory Corporation
Police took away about 30 Elders who were prepared to be arrested as they blocked the road to Hawaii's highest peak.
Ryan Liddle

23 Jul 2019 - 3:23 PM  UPDATED 23 Jul 2019 - 3:23 PM

Thousands of demonstrators have built a makeshift camp and blockade in an effort to stop construction of a telescope on top of a mountain considered sacred to some Native Hawaiians.

Mauna Kea is valued by astronomers for its clear weather and minimal light pollution and the US$1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope is expected to be one of the world’s most advanced.

Native Hawaiian protesters and other opponents of the observatory say they are concerned that construction will desecrate the mountain.

Last week, police arrested 33 Elders at the blockade, some who were using wheelchairs and walking canes. They were later released after being issued citations.

About 2000 people packed the base of Mauna Kea after the arrests – triple the number of protesters who had shown up earlier.

Kaho'okahi Kanuha, a protest leader, said that efforts to stop the telescope were about protecting Hawaii's Indigenous people.

"This is about our right to exist," he said. "We fight and resist and we stand, or we disappear forever."

Hawaii Governor David Ige has not decided whether to remove protesters from the mountain but has signed an emergency proclamation making that an option.  

"We've been patient in trying to allow the protesters to express their feelings about the project," he said. "We are taking steps to assure the rights of those in the project to get the project moving."

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