Protesters Bracing Themselves ‘Mentally, Spiritually’ For Battle Atop Hawaii Volcano

HONOLULU (AP) — A battle is poised to unfold on a sacred Hawaii mountain where plans call for construction of one of the world’s largest telescopes.

Work is set to resume Wednesday on the Thirty Meter Telescope atop the Big Island’s Mauna Kea, but protesters say it tramples on land sacred to many Native Hawaiians and they will try to stop the construction peacefully.

“We’re bracing ourselves mentally, spiritually for the battle ahead,” said Kahookahi Kanuha, one of the protesters camped out near the visitor center at 9,200 feet. “I don’t mean a physical battle. It’s brain against brain.”

The protesters are sleeping in vehicles or on cots under a tent and braving weather that’s chilly for Hawaii standards – about 30 degrees at night. They are making sure they have bail money ready in case they are arrested.

Work was put on hold for two months after 31 people were arrested for blocking access to the site, but telescope officials said this weekend that construction would start again Wednesday.

Astronomers revere the site because its summit at 13,796 feet is well above the clouds, and it provides a clear view of the sky for 300 days a year. There’s also very little air and light pollution.

Opponents say the $1.4 billion project that will be 18 stories high will desecrate land that Native Hawaiians believe to be the home of deities. Some say it’s time to curb development on the mountain, where 13 other telescopes sit.

Their protests prompted Gov. David Ige to say Hawaii must do a better job of caring for the mountain. But Ige said Thirty Meter Telescope has a right to proceed with construction, which the governor’s office reiterated in a statement released late Tuesday.

“The state and Hawaii County are working together to uphold —> Read More