The police reported they took into custody eight Mauna Kea protesters on Wednesday during an on-going dispute over the construction of a ground telescope on a mountain summit protesters do not want to be desecrated.
According to a recent report issue by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, police officers arrested seven female protesters and one male. Twenty police officers were on the mountaintop to enforce an emergency policy designed to prevent telescope protesters from blocking the construction site.
According to the new policy, protesters cannot camp at night on Mauna Kea, nor are they allowed to carry a specific camping gear. So far, local authorities took other measures to discourage protests including blocking their access to the mountain and negotiating with them by using a non-violent ancient healing technique.
But protesters found new ways of being present on the construction site 24/7 to block the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope which is expected to be the largest optical telescope in the world.
Protesters have been blocking the project for five months now.
But this week, police officers tried to disperse the protesters while the latter where gathered in a group to chant an ancient prayer. Seven women were arrested and a man who climbed on the roof of a nearby hut to record the arrests. It took four police officers to take the man away from the site.
He can be released from prison if he posts a $1,000 bond, while the women need to post $250 each. The police said that the 23-year-old man was a repeat offender. The new policy was designed to protect both protesters and construction workers over the course of four months.
Camping was already barred on the mountain, but the new policy was necessary to prevent protesters from setting boulders to block road access or harass construction workers.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a group which fights for Native Hawaiians’ rights, urged the government to stop enforcing such policies on Wednesday. The office argued that Native Hawaiians’ right to peacefully assembly and perform ancient prayers called pulled is written in the Constitution and policies or other rules cannot hinder the exercise of these rights.
According to the new rules, protesters can no longer be on the mountain during nighttime unless they are in a moving vehicle. Local authorities said that protesters are free to gather and pray near the construction site every day from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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