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Maui telescope protesters ready to disrupt convoy

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Protesters are mobilizing to attempt to block a convoy delivering materials to the construction site for a Maui solar telescope, and this time, they plan to be at two locations.

The protest is inspired by a fight to stop a giant telescope from being built on Hawaii island. Protesters on both islands cite the sacredness of the land as a driving force behind the opposition.

On Wednesday night, a slow-moving convoy is set to deliver construction materials to Haleakala, where the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is being built.

Twenty people were arrested last month when protesters laid down on the road in front of the convoy. Demonstrators laid on the ground and connected themselves with plastic pipes and chains, Maui police said, requiring officers to spend hours using handsaws to cut through the pipes.

Kahele Dukelow of the group Kakoo Haleakala said she doesn’t know where that tactic came from. "It’s kind of a common practice for protesters," she said. There aren’t plans to use the pipes again, she said.

What will be different this time, she said, is that protesters will mobilize at two locations: at the base yard where the convoy is leaving from and at the road leading up the mountain.

Despite last month’s arrests, all three truckloads reached the summit. The telescope’s buildings are about 80 percent to 90 percent complete, project manager Joseph McMullin said.

Dukelow’s group cites concerns including "perpetuation and protection of sacred space, the environment, archaeological and cultural sites and Hawaiian national lands," according to a news release.

The project has committed to an environmental program that includes removing invasive species and protecting the endangered Hawaiian petrel, McMullin said in an email.

"In addition, it is important to understand that changes in the sun directly affect human societies, impacting electrical grids, satellite communications and climate. … Our facility will provide the knowledge to better understand, predict and prepare for those changes," he wrote. "My understanding is that the protesters associate themselves with the word ‘protectors.’ If so, they should be helping us build the observatory."

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