6 arrested in protests over construction of telescope atop Haleakala

6 arrested in protests over construction of telescope atop Haleakala
Published: Aug. 1, 2017 at 10:54 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 2, 2017 at 6:43 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HALEAKALA, Maui (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two women and four men were arrested early Wednesday during a protest over construction of a new telescope atop Haleakala.

The six were among hundreds of activists blocking the road that leads to the summit, preventing a construction convoy from getting through.

Around 3 a.m., officers pushed people out of the way to allow the crews to pass and even carried out several people who were lying on the ground.

At least 200 people came out for the overnight protests over construction of the new Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) atop the mountain, which Native Hawaiians consider sacred. Some 60 officers responded, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Protester Joseph Henderson was among those arrested.

He said he "felt my kupuna and broke free from the line and crawled under the truck."

"I was willing to lay down my life to protect one of our most sacred mountains. I'm fighting for our people. If we can't protect one of our most sacred mountains, then how can we protect anything else we call sacred? People may look at it like a defeat because the telescope is being built but we met them with resistance every step of the way and we will meet them with resistance every time," Henderson said.

One of those arrested was first taken to an emergency room for an unknown medical issue.

All of those arrested were released after being booked and will have court appearances scheduled. They face charges including disorderly conduct, obstructing a highway, and failing to obey an officer, DLNR said.

Others were warned to leave the area peacefully or they would face arrest.

"It was very heartbreaking," said Hula Kaeo, one of protesters. "I understand my parents have dedicated their whole lives to making sure that maybe my generation wouldn't have to be a part of heart-wrenching struggles like this."

About 5 a.m., construction crews were able to get past the protesters.

The protesters started gathering around 6 p.m. Tuesday, and say they were attempting to block construction in order to protect the mountain.

Crater Road and Haleakala National Park's summit road closed to visitor traffic about 10 p.m. Tuesday and are set to reopen 2 p.m. Wednesday. Officials closed the road in order to allow a caravan of semi-truck trailers and other vehicles transporting wide loads of construction material to the telescope site near the volcano's summit.

Park officials say the telescope project is located outside of their boundaries, but the convoy has been granted a "special use permit" to travel through the area.

Officials say once the telescope is completed in 2020, it will become the world's largest ground-based solar telescope and will be able to capture unprecedented high-resolution images of the sun.

Two years ago, similar convoys were halted by protesters who used PVC pipes to tie each other together and create a blockade.

On July 31, 2015, 20 people were arrested trying to stop a caravan transporting material and equipment to the summit. Three weeks later, eight others were arrested during another demonstration against the telescope.

At the time, opponents said the solar telescope's construction shouldn't be allowed to move forward when challenges to the project's permit were still under deliberation at the state Supreme Court. However, in October of 2016, the Hawaii Supreme Court issued its ruling in support of continued construction after finding that the management plan for the Haleakala summit provided a sufficient assessment of potential environmental impacts.

Kakoo Haleakala put a call out on social media to gather Tuesday night in front of King Kekaulike High School before heading to the summit to stand in Kapu Aloha and peaceful protest of what they're calling the continued desecration of Native Hawaiian sacred spaces. Organizers are asking people to wear bright clothing and be prepared with bail money.

The protest comes as tensions are also high over the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope proposed for Mauna Kea.

Earlier this month, a former Circuit Court judge recommended the telescope project be allowed to move forward. The recommendation now goes to the state Land Board.

Governor David Ige said he is looking ahead if the Thirty Meter Telescope is approved for Mauna Kea. He said they have been looking to organize an new entity for better management of the mountain.

"We've been talking about better management of Mauna Kea as an entity. Looking for lineal descendants and others that would be able to provide advice and guidance on better stewardship of Mauna Kea," Ige said.

DKIST did not respond to Hawaii News Now's requests for an interview but posted on its website, "It is our hope that we can work together while respectful of one another's differences, and mutually revere these gifts from nature."

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