HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Big Island police arrested twelve protestors Thursday. They were accused of blocking construction vehicles access to the summit of Mauna Kea. The crews were trying to get to the site to work on what will be the world's biggest telescope.
"I wouldn't consider it civil disobedience. We consider it civil assistance," protestor Kahookahi Kanuha said. "We were attempting to assist the authorities in upholding the law. And those who are being disobedient to the law are those with TMT, who are continuing to break the regulations of developing on conservational land."
Opponents of building the $1.4 billion Thirty-Meter Telescope on the mountain question whether land appraisals were done correctly and whether Native Hawaiian groups had been consulted.
"If it's a sacred mountain like other sacred sites throughout the world and United States, that should be respected," said Palikapu Dedman of the Pele Defense Fund.
Police told the protestors they would be arrested if they didn't disperse and continued to interfere with vehicles on the road to the summit.
"It's just a matter of making sure that everything is done in a safe manner. And I think that might have been the issue today on the mountain," University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said.
The project's contractor TMT Observatory Corporation said it respects the rights of everyone to express their viewpoints, but it also respects state law and the seven-year process that granted building permits to put the telescope in the Mauna Kea Science Reserve's Astronomy Precinct.
Dedman paid the $250 bail for some of the protestors.
"They stood up for religious freedom," he said. "I think that we've been neglected that as Native Hawaiians, our religious rights. And yet it's a national and international right to our religion."
"We knew that arrests was coming. That's not going to take us away from the mountain. It's only temporary. As soon as we're done with this I'm heading back up," Kanuha said.
Ronald Fujiyoshi, 75, of Hilo
Moanikeala Akaka, 70, of Hilo
Joseph Kanuha, 56, of Kailua-Kona
Eric Heaukulani, 38, of Kealakekua
Kelii Ioane Jr., 63, of Hilo
James Albertini, 68, of Kurtistown
Erin O'Donnel, 40, of Kamuela
Craig Neff, 56 ,of Papaikou
Gary Oamilda, 66, of Ocean View
Chase Kahookahi Kanuha, 26, of Kailua-Kona
Dannette Henrietta, 45, of Hilo
Lambert Lavea, 27, of Mountain View
"We regret that police action had to be taken to enable our legal access to the project site. TMT respects the rights of everyone to express their viewpoints. We also respect the laws of the State of Hawaii and the seven-year public process and authority that granted us permits to build the Thirty Meter Telescope in the Maunakea Science Reserve's Astronomy Precinct. Like most people in the community we truly believe that science and culture can coexist on Maunakea as it has for the past 50-years along with other public uses," said TMT Project Manager Gary Sanders.