Protests spread as activists fight telescope in Hawaii

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Demonstrations against a giant telescope planned for Hawaii’s tallest peak spread to New York, Las Vegas and Honolulu’s tourist mecca of Waikiki over the weekend …

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Demonstrations against a giant telescope planned for Hawaii‘s tallest peak have spread to New York, Las Vegas and Honolulu’s tourist mecca of Waikiki as Native Hawaiians push to protect what they say is a sacred place.

In Nevada, a few hundred Native Hawaiians and former Hawaii residents gathered under the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to show their solidarity with protesters back home.

Elsewhere, video on Twitter showed a few dozen protesters chanting and holding signs and flags in New York’s Union Square.

In Waikiki, hundreds of people marched on sidewalks past tourists and high-rise hotels in opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Several businesses joined a one-day “tourism boycott” organized by activists.

Old Lahaina Luau on Maui called off its nightly luau, leading to cancellations for 450 people. Because the show is sold out through the middle of next month, it wasn’t able to accommodate most guests on another night.

The company acted because it believed most of its employees would likely have decided to join the boycott regardless.

“So we decided, you know what, it would really show our support to our employees and at the same time reflect our support to Hawaiian culture for us to have everyone be able to take off that day,” said Kawika Freitas, director of public and cultural relations at Old Lahaina Luau.

Skyline Hawaii suspended zipline rides on the Big Island, Kauai and Maui. It cancelled bicycle and van tours to the summit of Haleakala, Maui’s tallest peak, and to the small town of Hana. The decision affected several hundred customers.

“We did have a few people that were a little bit upset, but 90 percent of the people were very understanding,” said Jennifer Puha, who works in reservations.

The company’s owner has a lot of respect for Hawaiian culture, Puha said. “He feels that we have a duty to stand by doing the right thing,” she said.

Both Skyline Hawaii and Old Lahaina Luau were to resume normal operations on Tuesday.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green visited protesters on Monday on Mauna Kea.

“I am here today simply to listen to everyone who feels passionately about the Mauna, and to show respect for anyone who is putting some part of their heart and spirit into this pivotal time in Hawaii’s history,” he wrote in a Facebook post

Since last week, protesters have been blocking a road to the summit of Mauna Kea, a site they consider to be sacred.

The crowd of demonstrators there swelled to 2,000 people over the weekend. About 1,000 were at the site Monday halfway up the mountain, state spokesman Dan Dennison said.

Scientists want to build the telescope atop Mauna Kea because it is one of the best sites in the world for viewing the skies. The observatory would join 13 other telescopes already at the summit, though several are due to be decommissioned in a concession to telescope opponents.

An international consortium obtained a construction permit from the state after a decade-long regulatory and appeals process. The Hawaii Supreme Court upheld the permit last year.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has ordered the closure of the road as a way to clear a path for construction equipment. But protesters have blocked the road, creating a standoff.

Law enforcement arrested 34 people last Wednesday for blocking the road. One arrest was reported over the weekend.

On Monday, 13 state lawmakers and county council members called on Ige to rescind his emergency proclamation about the road, saying it violated the spirit of a law intended to help communities during natural disasters or threats to public safety.

They said neither describes the current situation.

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This story has been corrected to show several telescopes will be decommissioned, not five.

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