After protesters blocked a roadway in an attempt to stop the construction of a $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, astronomers were told they could not come back to the summit due to safety concerns.
Native Hawaiians are protesting the construction of this new telescope because they are concerned it will harm an area they consider sacred, the Associated Press reported.
After the protesters blocked the road leading to the summit for a second time on Tuesday, Jessica Dempsey, the deputy director of the East Asian Observatory who has a telescope at the Hawaiian summit, said astronomers won’t be allowed back until they can get consistent access to the summit.
Dozens of scientific projects were affected by this on Tuesday when 25 workers from five observatories had to be escorted down the mountain, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.
“Our science time is precious but in this case, our priority is just to make sure all of our staff is safe,” Dempsey said. She explained that researchers would understand the need to close the summit because you need consistent access to the summit for the safety of the staff.
Tuesday morning, police and the protesters attempted to reach an agreement regarding who should be allowed up the mountain. The deal failed when the protesters would not let astronomers up the mountain to the summit and the police would not let natives up the mountain to pray. Both sides have made checkpoints on Mauna Kea Access Road.
“Now is the time,” said Kaho’okahi Kanuha, one of the leaders of the protest. “We need to do it because we have no other choice. We fight and we stand or we disappear forever.” Nobody was arrested during the protests on Tuesday. (RELATED: Police Arrest Seven At Protest For Toppling Confederate Soldier Statue)
However, there are other Native Hawaiians who are not against the telescope project. Annette Reyes, a Native Hawaiian from the Big Island, said the cultural practices do not happen near the summit and shouldn’t disturb sacred land, according to the Associated Press.
She has been called a fake Hawaiian for her support of the project so she was hesitant to publicly support it. However, Reyes called the protesters “a vocal minority.”
There have been legal battles for years going on over this project. The project was finally cleared to start construction after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled they have legally obtained a permit for it.
When the Thirty Meter Telescope is built, it is expected to be one of the most advanced telescopes in the world. Its main mirror will be 98 feet in diameter, three times wider than the world’s current largest visible-light telescope.