Protesters vowed Monday to continue demonstrating against the construction of a giant telescope on top of a mountain some Native Hawaiians consider sacred after they spent the day blocking the road to the project site. About a dozen elders, or kupuna, sat in chairs at the start of the road on Monday, committed to being arrested if need be. Another eight shackled themselves to each other over a grate in the road. They acted after state officials announced they would close the road to the summit of Mauna Kea so they could begin bringing equipment to the construction site in coming days. The confrontation was a dramatic start to what could be weeks or more of protests pitting scientific discovery against cultural preservation and indigenous rights, the AP reports.
Authorities didn't arrest anyone, saying their priority was installing concrete barriers along a nearby highway to create a buffer between speeding cars and the large numbers of people congregating in the area. No construction vehicles went up to the summit. Hundreds of protesters remained at the scene and many promised to continue their fight. "We understand that this going to be a prolonged struggle," said Kaho'okahi Kanuha, one of the protest leaders. He said he was confident the telescope wouldn't be built. Astronomers are hopeful the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope will help them study the earliest moments of the universe after the Big Bang as well as identify more planets outside our solar system. They favor Mauna Kea because the clear air and limited light pollution at its summit 13,796 feet above sea level makes it one of the world's best locations for studying the skies. (After years of protests and legal battles, the project got the go-ahead last month.)