MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - [Update March 30:]
Protesters on Mauna Kea are not allowing construction workers to access the summit of Mauna Kea.
Crews encountered dozens of protesters on Monday morning who were blocking access to the construction site of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
The demonstrations are near the Visitor Information Center and began last week.
Heavy equipment has already been placed at the construction site to build the $1.4 billion telescope, which supporters say will be the world's most powerful telescope when completed.
But critics of the project say it will desecrate sacred lands.
So far, no arrests have been made and the protest is continuing peacefully.
Stay with Hawaii News Now for the latest updates and information on this developing story.
[Original Story Posted March 26:]
Another standoff is looming in the battle over the Thirty Meter Telescope.
Protestors on the Big Island are taking action to block heavy construction equipment from getting to work on land they consider sacred.
Kamahana Kealoha with
says about 100 protestors went up to the entrance to the Mauna Kea Observatory Road Wednesday night and will be staying overnight. He says several others will join them Thursday morning. They plan to create a human blockade to keep more construction crews and equipment from going up.
University of Hawaii spokesman Daniel Meisenzahl says about five tractor-trailers carrying heavy equipment drove up to Mauna Kea early Tuesday morning to begin construction for the world's most advanced telescope. Once word got out, Native Hawaiian protesters began making the journey up to the 13,796-foot summit.
Kealoha plans to join them on Thursday.
"They took machines up there in the cover of night and they are right now piercing into Mauna Kea," Kealoha said.
Kealoha was also there in October when protesters disrupted the groundbreaking ceremony. They say the construction will desecrate sacred lands.
"For us, nature is god. And that mountain, being the first born of the universe, is like our Jesus. And the telescopes on the summit are like the thorns. So in our view, the first born of the universe, the first born of god, is being crucified right before our eyes," said Kealoha.
The $1.4 billion project has survived years of environmental and legal scrutiny. Last summer the state signed off on the land lease. Many countries are invested in the project which is being led by the University of Hawaii.
"It's gonna be the most powerful telescope in the world, like up to nine, ten times more powerful. And it's really gonna open up the stars and really advance knowledge and that's really what the University of Hawaii is all about, is advancing knowledge," said UH spokesman Daniel Meisenzahl.
If all goes well, the TMT will be operational in 2024. But Native Hawaiian activists hope to stop it before it truly starts.
"That TMT is gonna be built over my dead body," Kealoha said.
"Moving forward, I guess we'll just have to wait and see, I think cooler heads will prevail," Meisenzahl said.
Meisenzahl says no actual work will be done on Thursday because it's Prince Kuhio Day. Still, more protestors are planning on being up there at 6:00 a.m. They say they will stay there indefinitely.
UH says that it's top priority on Mauna Kea is the health and safety of everyone on the mountain.