Bay Area residents protest massive telescope construction in Hawaii

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Mauna Kea is Hawaii's tallest mountain. It's also sacred burial land and is revered by many Hawaiians as a place where humans can enter heaven.

But right now, hundreds of people are protesting the construction of a massive telescope on the volcano's summit.

Protestors have been camped on the Mauna Kea since Monday and have blocked a road, preventing construction equipment and workers from accessing the telescope site.

"Hawaiian people, we do not have a voice," said Mikahla Harris Aweau, who grew up in San Francisco, but is flying to Hawaii's Big Island to join her family in protest. "Our elders are leading us to this frontline, that we need to follow them and we have to go."

Thirty-three Hawaiian elders-- or Kapuna-- were arrested during the protests on Wednesday.

"It's not the telescope itself, it's the fact that they're building it in that space that is sacred to us," said Kumu Kaui Peralto, who teaches Hawaiian language and culture at Stanford.

Peralto grew up near the Mauna Kea and has been involved with the fight against the Thirty Meter Telescope for years.

"This is sacred space, equivalent to something like Mount Fuji."

But Peralto says the fight against telescopes and development on the mountain is not new.

"It has been an issue for generations"
The first telescopes were constructed in the 1970s on the Mauna Kea.

"It's a really ideal place to have a telescope. You don't have a lot of light pollution, you've got that steady air up there, that 14,000-foot peak," said Gerald McKeegan, an Astronomer at the Chabot Space and Science Center.

McKeegan says the new Mauna Kea telescope would be three times the size of existing telescopes on the summit.

"It could help us understand how our universe works, what the evolution of our universe was and where the universe is going."

The University of California has a major share in the Thirty Meter Telescope and is helping to fund the project.

As a result, there's a protest planned at UC Berkeley on Friday at 6 pm at Sproul Plaza.

There's another protest at Stanford on Saturday from 2 to 5 pm at White Memorial Plaza.
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