Native Hawaiian protestors halt construction of $1.4-billion telescope

Construction on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) atop Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii has been brought to a stop by native Hawaiian protestors, who have built four “altars” (ahu, in Hawaiian) on the access road leading to the construction site at the 10,000 foot summit.  The road had existed altar-less for some time, leading to the Visitors Center at the 9,200 feet level, but access to that site is now blocked.

Artist's rendering of TMT (via Wikipedia).

The governor of Hawaii is standing firm.  Dan Nakaso of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports:

Gov. David Ige pledged to keep the road to the summit of Mauna Kea opened and said Friday that he is “working to find ways to enable” the Thirty Meter Telescope project to proceed atop Mauna Kea “without putting workers, protestors and the general public at risk.”

Ige’s statement came hours after a protester Friday morning said he was struck by the side-view mirror of a TMT security truck — an incident that Hawaii County police are investigating.

That claim of injury appears dubious:

Fellow protester Kahookahi Kanuha called Hilo police before 6 a.m. to report that “Mikey” Kalaemano Kealoha Makuakane Kahilihiwa Kaina had been hit by a Toyota Tacoma security truck traveling up the mountain “at a very fast pace and hit him on the side with a mirror.”

“I rolled off of the back of the truck and fell down,” Kaina said as Kanuha talked to police dispatchers.  

The protestor who reported being hit by a side-view mirror was driven down the mountain by a ranger from the Office of Mauna Kea Management, said University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl. The ranger told the protester to call 911, Meisenzahl said.

Cindy McMillan, spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige, said ranger Scotty Paiva rushed to the scene and drove the protester to the visitor center. Paiva reported that the protestor appeared to be uninjured after he was hit by a TMT security truck, McMillan said. 

The TMT is a massive project, budgeted at $1.4 billion, with both a scientific and economic payoff for the state.  For the moment, at least, it is stymied.  The left loves to boast of its devotion to science but also gets teary-eyed over celebrating diversity.  It will be interesting to watch how this gets played out.

Hat tip: Peter von Buol