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Telescope opponents gather in Honolulu to discuss protest plans, response to closed restrooms

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HONOLULU — Many of the protesters opposed to plans for a giant telescope atop Mauna Kea came down from the mountain for a large gathering Wednesday around the King Kamehameha statue in Honolulu.

As protesters who have been camping on the Big Island mountain traveled to Oahu, three or so remained behind in case workers attempt to resume construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, said Kahookahi Kanuha, one of the leaders against the $1.4 billion project.

Kanuha led a news conference Wednesday at the base of the statue to discuss last week's victory that resulted in crews attempting to make their way up the mountain to restart construction turning around and retreating when blocked by hundreds of protesters and large boulders.

"Hawaii is rising," he said. "We are rising."

The nonprofit company building the telescope hasn't indicated when there might be another attempt to resume construction. Construction has been halted since April amid protests from many who say they are protecting sacred land from desecration.

Meanwhile, the mountain's access road remains closed, along with restroom facilities at its visitor center. In response, protesters camping on the mountain have trucked over four portable toilets, Kanuha said.

PHOTO: Protesters hold their hands in the shape of a mountain to symbolize protecting Mauna Kea during a news conference in Honolulu on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. The protesters gathered for a news conference on their efforts to block the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher)
Protesters hold their hands in the shape of a mountain to symbolize protecting Mauna Kea during a news conference in Honolulu on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. The protesters gathered for a news conference on their efforts to block the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher)

The road is closed for safety reasons, said Dan Meisenzahl, a spokesman for the University of Hawaii, which manages the mountain's stewardship. There's not enough staff and resources to handle increased demand on facilities, he said.

Workers "also have to check the slopes along the road for stability since many of the boulders and rocks used to block the road last week were literally pried out of the mountainside," he wrote in an email.

Kanuha said protesters don't want their efforts to prevent Mauna Kea access to tourists and workers of the 13 telescopes already on the mountain.

"We will not resort to violence, we will not resort to hostility," he said. "We will stand in aloha. We will stand in truth."

He said protesters have helped clear the road of boulders, rocks walls and stone altars.

State Attorney General Doug Chin weighed in on the protest, with a statement that said in part: "Deliberately building a rock wall in the middle of a road without warning threatens public safety. Purposely placing boulders in a road could get someone killed."

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .

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PHOTO: Protest leader Kahookahi Kanuha, center, speaks at a news conference in Honolulu on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, to discuss efforts to block the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher)
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