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Protesters planning to prevent delivery of telescope’s parts

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A demonstration planned for Thursday aims to again block a convoy of parts and materials headed to a large telescope under construction on the summit of Halea­kala.

Members of Kako‘o Haleakala are hoping for a repeat of the June 25 protest vigil, when an estimated 200 people prevented a group of oversize vehicles from leaving the Central Maui Baseyard in Puunene for a planned journey to the construction site of the $340 million Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.

“I’m ready for a replay,” said Trinette Furtado, a leader of Kako‘o Haleakala, a new group inspired by foes of the Thirty Meter Telescope planned on Mauna Kea.


Maui Police Department officers are expected to be on hand to respond to any lawbreaking actions, including the blocking of vehicles on the public street, officials said.

Furtado, a Native Hawaiian born and raised on Maui, said she and others in the group are prepared to be arrested.

“We are hoping for the best, hoping not to be arrested. But if if comes to it, we are ready to protect the mountain,” she said.

Formerly known as the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, the 14-story Inouye Telescope observatory is about 80 percent built at the University of Hawaii’s Science City area at the summit of the 10,000-foot Maui mountain.

When the project is completed in 2019, it is expected to be the world’s most powerful solar telescope, enabling astronomers to study the sun at unprecedented detail for two solar cycles — about 22 years — before it is removed, officials said.

The Hawaii Supreme Court is now weighing the merits of a challenge to the project’s state-issued conservation use permit. Kila­kila o Haleakala, a group of Native Hawaiians that has been fighting the project for years, is hoping the high court will halt construction.

Leaders of Kako‘o Haleakala say they are upset that construction has been allowed to proceed on  what they call a sacred mountaintop even as the project is being contested in court. That is the same argument expressed by opponents of the TMT project, which is also being contested before the state Supreme Court.

According to Furtado, even more people are expected to join Thursday’s gathering, which starts with a 7 p.m. informational meeting and continues at the Central Maui Baseyard until the early morning.

Some of the same individuals who are flying in to join Wednesday’s Trans-Pacific Partnership protest in West Maui are staying for the telescope event, she said.

The Kako‘o Haleakala demonstration will employ the same nonviolent “kapu aloha” protest approach that is the hallmark of the Mauna Kea “protectors,” Furtado said.

“Some people have issues. It’s understandable that they feel frustrated, not heard, not respected,” she said. “But the aloha is for the aina and for each other. To me, kapu aloha is about being in a place of aloha, feeling pono (righteous) in my naau (gut).”

After the last protest, telescope managers contacted the protest organizers in an effort to explain their legal right to build the project. Furtado said they declined to meet and instead suggested a public meeting, but there was no follow-up on the idea.

Project managers could not be reached Tuesday.

If the convoy is similar to June’s attempt, it will include support vehicles and semitrailers that will haul the massive exterior siding of the observatory in an 18-foot-wide load at 2 to 5 mph.

Haleakala National Park earlier announced that Crater Road and the park’s summit road will close to visitor traffic while the slow-moving convoy moves to the summit. The roads will be closed to visitors from 6 p.m. Thursday through 2 p.m. Friday.

The project obtained a special use permit from Haleakala National Park to allow the convoy on its narrow roads.

A statement issued by the Inouye Telescope in response to the June protest called the event discouraging but added that it would not alter its policy of being in full compliance with the law.

“There is no connection between the DKIST project and the TMT,” project Manager Joseph P. McMullin said in an email. “We look forward to the scientific discoveries that DKIST will enable and hope that there is no delay. We are committed to working cooperatively and respectfully with the public.”

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