Elderly Native Hawaiians arrested in protest against telescope construction

Demonstrators gather to block a road at the base of Hawaii's tallest mountain on Monday

Demonstrators gather to block a road at the base of Hawaii's tallest mountain on Monday

Demonstrators at the access road to Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island have been in place since Monday, the day when construction was slated to kick off on the Thirty-Meter Telescope at top of the mountain.

Protester: "We have a right to worship god in the environment of our belief".

Plans to build the new telescope began in 2009, but Native Hawaiian opponents who say the mountain is sacred have slowed construction with drawn-out legal battles and by physically blocking crews from starting work.

Later Wednesday, Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, said at a news conference that he had issued an emergency proclamation that would allow the authorities to better manage roadways and cordon off certain areas on the mountain. The state Supreme Court has given the green light to the project that would put one of the world's most powerful telescopes atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island. She said she was arrested for obstruction of a government road but later returned to the blockade.

Protesters said they told law enforcement they would allow telescope technicians to pass so long as they would be allowed to drive one auto to the summit each day for cultural and religious practices. He said protesters are illegally occupying roads and highways.

Protesters continue to gather at the base of Mauna Kea on Tuesday, the day after officials closed the road to the summit in preparation for trucks to begin taking equipment to the top. Police arrested 33 protesters on Wednesday, but they were nearly immediately released, according to Dan Dennison, a spokesman for Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Opponents of the the telescope say it will desecrate sacred land.

Observations won't resume until staffers have consistent access to the summit, a move that is needed to ensure their safety, said Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of the East Asian Observatory, one of the existing telescopes.

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Reyes said Hawaii's young people can't afford to miss out on the educational opportunities, citing telescope officials' pledge to provide $1 million every year of the 19-year Mauna Kea sublease to boost science, technology, engineering and math education.

All workers at the observatories already on the mountain have been evacuated.

Over the years, activists have staged protests and filed lawsuits to halt the telescope's construction.

On Monday, Hawaii state officials attempted to close the road to the summit so that construction could begin.

Currently, 13 telescopes sit on the mountaintop though five of them are scheduled for decommissioning by the time TMT is operational.

"Our science time is precious, but in this case, our priority is just to make sure all of our staff is safe", Dempsey said.

Mauna Kea, the highest peak in Hawaii at almost 14,000 feet, was chosen as the site for the telescope in 2009 because of its elevation and lack of light pollution. She says she's been called a fake Hawaiian for supporting the project.

Scientists say the telescope will be used to look for stars that may support life. It would be built by an global partnership called the TMT worldwide Observatory, led by the University of California and the California Institute of Technology but also including Japan, China, India and Canada.

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