In an impassioned battle between preservation and construction, hundreds of activists and protesters gathered today at the base of Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s tallest mountain, to oppose the building of a giant telescope.
The protest comes as part of a years-long legal battle over land that some native Hawaiians consider sacred. The site was selected in 2009, but groundbreaking in 2014 was halted because of protests, and construction was disrupted in 2015 when activists were arrested for obstructing progress.
The AP reports that supporters of the $1.4 billion giant telescope say it will offer scientists a potential glimpse into the past as far back as the time just after the big bang, as well as bring educational and economic opportunities to Hawaii. The state’s Supreme Court has ruled the construction is legal, and the state gave the company (comprising a group of universities in California and Canada, with partners from China, India, and Japan) permits to proceed.
Hawaii police have now closed a road leading to the summit. Hawaiian activist Kaleikoa Ka’eo, who is one of the seven elders who chained themselves to a cattle guard on the access road, said, “The state of Hawaii is treating its people like we are invisible. They will pay for their racism.”