Hundreds of protesters gathered Monday at the base of Hawaii's tallest mountain to protest theon land that some Hawaiians consider sacred. A group of kupuna, or elders, tied themselves with a rope on the road leading to the top of Mauna Kea.
Scientists hope thatthey have planned for the site – a world famous place for astronomy – will help them go back in time right after the Big Bang and answer the fundamental questions about the universe. But some Hawaiian natives regard the holy land as a kingdom of gods and a place of worship.
Groups of activists sang and prayed at the foot of the mountain Sunday afternoon. They stated that the area, which is convenient to the highway at the intersection of the access road to the mountain, is a place of refuge and security.
"These are the Hawaiian homelands," said Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the event's leaders. "We are clearly out of their way, we do not obstruct anything, everyone is in ceremony."
According to the University of Hawaii, ancient Hawaiians considered the site as kapu, or forbidden. Only the highest ranking chiefs and priests were allowed to make the long trek to the top of Mauna Kea above the clouds.
Today, the university rents the land located at the top of the state to existing telescopes and observatories located at the summit. A road built for telescope access several decades ago is used every year by thousands of tourists and locals, including Hawaiian natives, who go there to pray.
The scientists chose Mauna Kea in 2009 after five years of researching the ideal site worldwide. The protests disrupted a ceremony of inauguration and a Hawaiian blessing ceremony on the site in 2014. After that, the protests intensified.
Construction was halted in April 2015 after the arrest of protesters for blocking the job. A few months later, a second attempt to resume construction led to further arrests and the withdrawal of the teams.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the 18-story telescope last October, although officials acknowledged that the construction period would still be intense, reported Hawaii News Now.
Proponents of the $ 1.4 billion giant telescope claim that this state-of-the-art instrument will not only make important scientific discoveries, but will also bring educational and economic opportunities to Hawaii. The main mirror of the telescope would measure 98 feet in diameter. It would be three times larger than the largest visible light telescope in the world, with a surface area nine times larger.
Governor David Ige said unarmed units of the National Guard would be used to transport personnel and supplies and to impose road closures, but they will not be used as law enforcement forces during planned events.