Protest is on for telescope convoy

New wide-load delivery of parts to Haleakala summit set for tonight

KAHULUI — A peaceful protest of a slow-moving wide load of telescope parts for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope atop Haleakala is planned at King Kekaulike High School in Pukalani tonight and into Wednesday.

About 70 people attended a meeting organized by Kako’o Haleakala at the University of Hawaii Maui College on Monday to discuss action against the transport headed up the mountain that they consider sacred. In the summer of 2015, more than 25 protesters were arrested in two demonstrations aimed at stopping loads of telescope parts. Protesters joined arms through PVC pipes and laid in front of trucks attempting to leave the Puunene baseyard and littered Crater Road with rocks and other debris.

Trucks eventually were able to get through after protesters were arrested.

Protesters this time around decided to stage their demonstration at King Kekaulike High School in Pukalani, at a junction the wide load has to pass on its way to the summit. They chose the school because they did not know where the convoy was to begin. Telescope, police, county and state officials Monday did not disclose the starting point of the convoy.

A source with knowledge of the transport of the equipment said that it will begin at the Puunene baseyard off Mokulele Highway, as did the convoys in 2015.

Crater Road and Haleakala National Park’s summit road will close to visitor traffic from 10 p.m. today through 2 p.m. Wednesday to make way for the slow-moving, extremely wide loads headed up the mountain, according to a park news release. The park will not be open for sunrise viewing Wednesday morning. While the road to the summit will reopen at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Haleakala Visitor Center at the 9,740 foot elevation will remain closed all day.

Those attending Monday’s meeting emphasized a peaceful protest. They were planning to meet at 6 p.m. at King Kekaulike and stay as long as necessary. They talked about making signs, lei and chanting.

The lead speakers, Kahele Dukelow and Kaleikoa Kaeo, encouraged people to avoid appearing threatening, especially in the event of an arrest. Some who were arrested in the 2015 protests, including Tiare Lawrence and Kahala Johnson, talked about their experiences; they said that it has to be a personal decision.

Dukelow offered tips about posting bail, adding that the group does not have a bail fund. Johnson advised people to plan for someone to take care of their vehicles or children in the event of an arrest.

Kaeo, a UH-Maui College professor who was arrested in the 2015 protests, explained to the crowd that it wasn’t about Native Hawaiians opposing science, but instead seeking equal recognition of their sacred places.

Capable of producing high-resolution images of the sun, the $340 million telescope is expected to be operational in 2019, the University of Hawaii said in October, when the state Supreme Court upheld a permit for the telescope. It’s expected to be the largest ground-based solar telescope in the world once completed, according to a 2016 paper written by project officials and University of Hawaii researchers.

Because the telescope is located outside park boundaries, project managers had to obtain a special use permit to travel through the park. The convoy will include semi-truck trailers and support vehicles expected to travel at 2 to 5 mph.

Back country permits will be given out at Headquarters Visitors Center from 2 to 3:45 p.m. Wednesday. However, the park has encouraged backpackers planning to hike into the crater on Wednesday to obtain their permits today. Visitors who paid an entrance fee Monday, today or Wednesday will have a one-day extension on the usual three-day pass, which applies to both the Kipahulu and Summit districts.

For the past several years, groups like Kilakila ‘O Haleakala and Kako’o Haleakala have been fighting against the construction of the telescope. In October, Kilakila lost an appeal before the Hawaii Supreme Court when the high court sided in a 3-2 decision with telescope developers, ruling that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources properly granted permits for the project. Kilakila had been challenging the project in the courts since 2009.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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