HONOLULU (KHON) – The upcoming construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on a dormant volcano on the big island of Hawaii is creating controversy. Despite arrests, demonstrators gather daily to protest the the telescope, saying the mountain is sacred.
The protesters remain at the base of Mauna Kea access road in a standoff with law enforcement and state officials. One of the recurring themes is access to the mountain.
Mauna Kea is currently the site of 13 massive telescopes used by researchers around the world to study the skies. The $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope will be one of the most advanced when built.
“This was part of every fabric of our culture as Kanaka Maole part of our culture. It is the essence of our culture to be guardians to be keepers of Aina,” said Lanakila Mangauil, Kiai of Mauna Kea
Bamboo Barricades have blocked telescope technicians from using the road, at times.
“We’re very appreciative that they’re allowing us to go up. we are having a problem with our telescope that we need to service and they’re requiring us to go now,” said Daryl Watanabe, telescope technician.
“If Kanaka don’t have access to the mountain, nobody should have access to the mountain and that was really the crux of the argument,” said Kahookahi Kanuha, Kiai of Mauna Kea.
Kiai is asking to be allowed to man a checkpoint controlling who is able to pass; that National Guard remain at the base of Mauna Kea access road and to have just one car a day gain access to the summit for religious and cultural reasons.
“All of those things were non-negotiable to them,” Kanuha said. “They weren’t interested.”