Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered at the base of Hawaii’s tallest mountain to protest the construction of a giant telescope. The device is set to be built on land that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred. The project has been delayed by years of legal battles and demonstrations. Now Hawaii’s Supreme Court has finally ruled the construction is legal, and the company behind the telescope has a green light to resume building.
Some Native Hawaiians consider the land a place of worship of various Hawaiian gods. Others simply don’t want development of more native land. “This is Hawaiian homelands,” says Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the protest leaders. “We’re clearly out of their way, we’re not obstructing anything, everyone is in ceremony.”
Trucks carrying construction equipment are making their way to the top. Protesters who blocked the roadway during previous construction attempts have been arrested. (For more information, see “Telescope Trouble.”)
Supporters of the $1.4 billion giant telescope say the cutting-edge instrument will not only make important scientific discoveries but bring educational and economic opportunities to Hawaii. It will be three times as wide as the world’s largest existing visible-light telescope.
Governor David Ige says unarmed National Guard units are transporting personnel and supplies, and will enforce some road closures. But they will not be used as law enforcement during planned protests.
Ige says he “respected the right of people to protest” at the telescope site as long as protesters behaved lawfully. But he wants to make sure workers have unimpeded access to the telescope site. He says, “As construction begins, our number one priority is keeping everyone safe.”
(Native Hawaiian activists gather at the base of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, Sunday, July 14, 2019. AP Photo/Caleb Jones)