HALEAKALA, Maui (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Several arrests were made early Wednesday as police cracked down on dozens of activists blocking the road leading to the summit of Haleakala in protest of construction of a four meter telescope.
Around 3 a.m., law enforcement officers had to push people out of the way and even carry several who were lying on the ground trying to block a convoy carrying parts for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.
Others were warned to leave the area peacefully or they would face arrest.
The convoy eventually moved past and tensions de-escalated just before 5 a.m.
Protesters, who started gathering around 6 p.m. Tuesday, are trying to block construction of the telescope because they say they’re standing in protection of the mountain as a sacred Native Hawaiian place.
Crater Road and Haleakala National Park’s summit road are close to visitor traffic from 10 p.m. Tuesday through 2 p.m. Wednesday, while a caravan of semi-truck trailers and other vehicles transport extremely wide loads of construction material to the DKIST 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.
Project advocates 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 DKI solar telescope 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.
Now, opponents of the project are once again calling for supporters to block construction crews’ access.
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.
Due to the scheduled construction covey, the Haleakala summit will not be open for sunrise viewing Wednesday morning and the Haleakala Visitor Center will remain closed all day.
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