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Hawaiian protesters arrested trying to block telescope on sacred lands

Hawaiian protesters arrested trying to block telescope on sacred lands
Police have arrested dozens of elderly protesters in a crowd of thousands blocking a road to the highest mountain in Hawaii, an ongoing effort to halt the construction of a giant telescope on land considered sacred by natives.

About 30 protesters, some in wheelchairs or using canes, were arrested in a crowd of over 2,000 blocking the road to the summit of Mauna Kea, where construction of a high-tech astronomical observatory has polarized locals. The $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope would be the largest visible light telescope in the world, but Native Hawaiians and their supporters are concerned that the construction will damage and desecrate the mountain, which the indigenous community holds sacred.

This is about our right to exist,” Kaho’okahi Kanuha, one of the leaders of the protest, told reporters. “We fight and resist and we stand, or we disappear forever.”

The project’s construction permits have been approved and re-approved amid a lengthy legal battle, and construction was due to start this week. Authorities closed the road to Mauna Kea’s summit on Monday to allow construction equipment up the mountain, and protesters gathered to form their own roadblocks – forcing astronomers to halt their work with the 13 existing telescopes on the mountain. Mauna Kea is highly sought after by astronomers because of its height, the lack of pollution, and the clear weather.

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The elders taken away by police were “prepared to be arrested,” according to protest leader Kealoha Pisciotta, though it was not yet known what charges, if any, would be filed against them.

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