Protests spread as activists fight telescope in Hawaii

  • This July 14, 2019, file photo shows the summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. For activists who say they’re protecting Mauna Kea, the fight against the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope is a boiling point in Hawaiian history: the overthrow on the Hawaiian kingdom, battles over land, water and development and questions about how the islands should be governed. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

HONOLULU — Demonstrations against a giant telescope planned for Hawaii’s tallest peak have spread to New York, Las Vegas and Honolulu’s tourist mecca of Waikiki as Native Hawaiians push to protect what they say is a sacred place.

In Nevada, a few hundred Native Hawaiians and former Hawaii residents gathered under the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to show their solidarity with protesters back home.

Elsewhere, video on Twitter showed a few dozen protesters chanting and holding signs and flags in New York’s Union Square.

In Waikiki, hundreds of people marched on sidewalks past tourists and high-rise hotels in opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green visited protesters on Monday on Mauna Kea.

“I am here today simply to listen to everyone who feels passionately about the Mauna, and to show respect for anyone who is putting some part of their heart and spirit into this pivotal time in Hawaii’s history,” he wrote in a Facebook post

Since last week, protesters have been blocking a road to the summit of Mauna Kea, a site they consider sacred.

The crowd of demonstrators there swelled to 2,000 people over the weekend. About 1,000 were at the site Monday halfway up the mountain, state spokesman Dan Dennison said.

Scientists want to build the telescope atop Mauna Kea because it is one of the best sites in the world for viewing the skies. The observatory would join 13 other telescopes already at the summit, though five are due to be decommissioned in a concession to telescope opponents.

An international consortium obtained a construction permit from the state after a decade-long regulatory and appeals process. The Hawaii Supreme Court upheld the permit last year.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has ordered the closure of the road as a way to clear a path for construction equipment. But protesters have blocked the road, creating a standoff.

Law enforcement arrested 34 people last Wednesday for blocking the road. One arrest was reported over the weekend.

On Monday, 10 state lawmakers and county council members called on Ige to rescind his emergency proclamation about the road, saying it violated the spirit of a law intended to help communities during natural disasters or threats to public safety.

They said neither describes the current situation.

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