Kaho's Okahi Kanuha, one of the group's leaders, told CNN Sunday that organizers estimate that more than 2,000 people have gathered along the road to Mauna Kea, where they built an improvised encampment and blocked in the hope of preventing the start of the work.
It is a conflict of years in the making. Scientists see Mauna Kea as a privileged place to explore the depths of space. But for some Hawaiians, the dormant volcano, the highest peak in Hawaii, is a sacred place.
The arid landscape is rich in their history and would be the site of the genesis of the Hawaiian people. Many of their venerated ancestors are buried there.
"This is without a doubt one of our most sacred places in all of Hawaii," Kanuha told CNN, claiming he harbored sacred waters and Hawaiian deities.
And the protesters gathered there, Kanuha told CNN.
He pointed out that the mauna, or mountain, had already been "desecrated" 13 times by other observatories, and that "many of them were called the last telescope," he said. . Now that's enough.
"We are taking a stand not only to protect our mauna and our aina, our country, with whom we have a genealogical link," said Kanuha. "We are fighting to protect it because we know that if we can not stop this, we can not fight much for or protect."
"It's our last fight," he said.
Scott Ishikawa, spokesperson for the 30-meter telescope project, said in a statement to CNN on Sunday that "the population is suffering from both sides of the issue," but Mauna Kea remains the project's favorite spot.
"We recognize that people have expressed strong emotions about this and we regret it.We have been part of the Hawaii Island community for more than 10 years and we have tried to do what is right, taking into account the 39 environment, culture, economy and the future of the island of Hawaii, "reads the statement. "But we know that TMT has become the symbol of larger problems within the Hawaiian community.While we are not aware of the state's plans for security or law enforcement Like everyone in Hawaii, we want to find a way forward that is safe. " for everyone."
"We are deeply committed to the integration of science and culture in Maunakea and Hawaii," said Mr. Yang, "and in enriching opportunities for education and training. the local economy ".
Police arrested 33 protesters Wednesday, according to Dan Dennison, spokesman for the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources. These were community elders who had chosen to be arrested and who formed a line to block the road.
They were released almost immediately, said Dennison. They had the opportunity to get a quote and leave the area.
In recent days, the governor of Hawaii and the protesters have opposed the living conditions in the camp.
Governor Ige told reporters on Friday that he would not use additional troops from the National Guard and that he had never planned to use tear gas to disperse the crowd. . He stated that his "number one priority has been and continues to be the safety of all people".
"However, there are thousands of people on the mountain and I encourage all citizens to remain respectful and calm," he added.
Ige painted the image of a disorganized camp, where there were "inadequate toilets and garbage cans" and reports of drug and alcohol use.
Port-a-Potties was at the camp and was cleaned twice a day, garbage was changed several times a day and there was even recycling, the organizers told KHON.
"There is absolutely no sign of drugs or alcohol," said Heidi Tsuneyoshi, city councilor of Honolulu City. "No one is even allowed to smoke here."
Kanuha told CNN that the governor's press conference was full of "misinformation", and said that Ige had not seen the site itself.
"What we have here is not a picture of dysfunction or an image of a society in ruins," he said. "We have images of people coming together, of people coming together, and every day we grow, become more organized, become stronger and stronger."
CNN's Ryan Prior and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.