Protesters block construction of giant telescope on mountain sacred to Native Hawaiians

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HILO, Hawaii — Protesters blocked a road this week as part of a push to prevent construction of a giant telescope near the top of a mountain held sacred by Native Hawaiians.

More than 50 protesters formed a roadblock Monday that stopped about 15 vehicles carrying workers up Mauna Kea on the Big Island, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald newspaper in Hilo reported (http://ow.ly/L2He7 ). Some see the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope project as desecrating the peak.

The protesters marched back and forth across the road outside the Mauna Kea visitor center as contemporary and traditional Hawaiian music played.

Telescope Project Manager Gary Sanders said workers waited for more than eight hours at the roadblock before heading back down the mountain.

"Our access via a public road has been blocked by protesters, and we have patiently waited for law enforcement to allow our workers the access to which they are entitled," he said in a statement.

Police looked on, but took no action against the demonstrators. Hawaii County police Capt. Richard Sherlock said the department's focus was ensuring safety.

"Our stance is not against the science," said Lanakila Mangauil, 27, of Honokaa. "It's not against the (telescope) itself. It's against their choice of place."

Astronomers say Mauna Kea is the ideal location for observing the most distant and difficult to understand mysteries of the universe.

The telescope is expected to create 300 full-time construction jobs and 120 to 140 permanent jobs. Opponents say the jobs don't justify more development on Mauna Kea.

Protesters said they have maintained a nearly round-the-clock presence outside the visitor center since last week after construction equipment arrived.

They also disrupted a groundbreaking ceremony at the site in October.


Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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