Hawaii telescope protesters don't back down after arrests

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

The telescope has since been approved again, but with building set to start this week, protestors have once again blocked access to the summit.

Protesters led by a group of native Hawaiian elders delayed the start of construction on Wednesday for a giant new telescope atop Hawaii's tallest mountain, but state officials began making arrests and vowed the project would ultimately proceed.

"The number of protesters have swelled and their blockage of roads and highways creates a unsafe situation", Ige said.

Existing telescopes on the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea are suspending operations while protesters block the road downslope to prevent the construction of a new observatory.

Protester Walter Ritte says he was driven down the mountain, given a citation and released.

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

A throng of protesters, many holding Hawaii state flags upside down, were visible in the background.

"We got word that they're gonna implement the construction on Mauna Kea, and by hearing that we knew what was going to take place", said Pedro. Protestors arrived early in the morning, linking arms through a grate in the road to obstruct any construction traffic, similar to their efforts in 2015.

Protesters said they told authorities Tuesday that they would allow telescope technicians to pass if they could drive one vehicle to the summit each day for cultural and religious practices.

No agreement was reached between the two sides.

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

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

"Right now, there's nothing happening on top of the mountain at all", Dennison said.

Another man chanted as an officer took him away.

Activists have fought the Thirty Meter Telescope in the courts and on the streets for years, but the latest protest could be their final stand as they run out of legal options.

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 said she was arrested for obstruction of a government road but later returned to the blockade.

Other Native Hawaiians say they don't believe the Thirty Meter Telescope will desecrate Mauna Kea.

Reyes said many others agree, but they're reluctant to publicly support the telescope because of bullying from protesters, a group she calls a "vocal minority".

Local media say the demonstrations began on Monday, as the work was to resume after being suspended for about four years.

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

Astronomers called on Larry Kimura, a Hawaiian language professor, to name the black hole.

Supporters of the telescope, however, say it will not only make important scientific discoveries but bring educational and economic opportunities to Hawaii.

The consortium behind the TMT observatory includes astronomers from the California Institute of Technology, as well as Japan, India and Canada.