33 Hawaii telescope protesters arrested

33 Hawaii telescope protesters arrested

Protesters led by native Hawaiian elders take part in a protest against the building of a giant new telescope on what they considered sacred ground at the summit of Mauna Kea volcano, on Big Island, Hawaii. Ryan Finnerty/Hawaii Public Radio via Reuters

Officials say 33 people were arrested for blocking the road to the summit of Hawaii's tallest peak during ongoing protests against the construction of a giant telescope.

State spokesman Dan Dennison says all 33 were given citations and released Wednesday.

Protest leaders say those arrested were kupuna, or elders, who were prepared and willing to be taken into custody.

Transportation officials said they decided to close the highway leading to the protest site because of motorists and pedestrians in the roadway. Hawaii

County Managing Director Wil Okabe says the road was also closed to allow a convoy of trucks to pass.

Hours later, the convoy didn't arrive and police in riot gear left the protest area. The highway was later reopened.

Okabe estimates there were 2,000 people gathered.

The project has been delayed by years of legal battles and demonstrations. Last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that telescope officials had legally obtained a permit, clearing the way for construction to begin.

Telescope opponents last week filed another petition in court, saying the project must post a security bond equivalent to the construction contract cost before starting to build.

Doug Ing, an attorney for the Thirty Meter Telescope, said the latest lawsuit has no merit and is another delay tactic.

The company behind the project is made up of a group of universities in California and Canada, with partners from China, India and Japan.