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Eight arrested in protest against telescope on sacred Hawaiian mountain

Published 10/09/2015

The base camp for protesters against the telescope project, near the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island (AP)
The base camp for protesters against the telescope project, near the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island (AP)

Eight people have been arrested amid protests over the construction of a giant telescope on top of a mountain many native Hawaiians consider sacred.

The state department of land and natural resources said 20 of its officers arrested seven women and one man on Mauna Kea.

An emergency rule is in place to stop people camping on the mountain.

The land board approved the rule in July, which restricts access to the mountain during certain nighttime hours and prohibits certain camping gear.

It was prompted by protesters' around-the-clock presence to prevent construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Protesters say officers hauled them away while they were praying. In video footage provided by the state, officers are seen walking toward a group of people huddled in a circle and chanting.

The footage shows officers putting plastic handcuffs on women and putting them into the back of a vehicle.

Officers had to pry the arrested man, Bronson Kobayashi, 23, off the roof of a wood-and-straw hut. Four officers eventually carried him away.

His bail was set at 1,000 dollars (£650) as he is a repeat offender, the state said. Bail for the women was set at 250 dollars (£162).

The emergency rule, in place for 120 days, is intended to make the mountain safe for protesters, visitors and workers of the 13 telescopes already on the mountain, the state said.

Attorney general Doug Chin told the land board that even though camping is already prohibited on the mountain, a targeted rule is necessary because of bad behaviour by some protesters - ranging from putting boulders in the road to threats and harassment - created unsafe conditions.

The non-profit company building the Thirty Meter Telescope has not indicated when there will be another attempt to resume construction. Workers weren't able reach the site during two previous attempts when they were blocked by hundreds of protesters, including dozens who were arrested.

This was the fourth time telescope opponents have been arrested on the mountain.

University of Hawaii law school professor Williamson Chang has filed a lawsuit seeking to repeal the rule, arguing it prevents telescope opponents from legally exercising their right to peacefully protest.

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