Judge sides with scientists trying to build telescope on Mauna Kea

Site considered sacred by some natives

By Chris Boyette and Hollie Silverman, CNN
AP via CNN

A judge in Hawaii denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would have prevented scientists from building another telescope on Mauna Kea.

(CNN) - A judge in Hawaii denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would have prevented scientists from building another telescope on Mauna Kea.

Judge Greg Nakamura denied the request Tuesday although the court has not yet issued a written order on the matter, Deputy Hawaii Attorney General Bryan Yee told CNN.

This comes after days of protests at the site on Hawaii's Big Island, which some native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Hundreds of protesters, or protectors as they prefer to be called, have spent a week blocking construction from starting on the Thirty-Meter Telescope at the top of the mountain. The device has been touted as the world's most sophisticated telescope.

Mauna Kea is already home to 13 observatories, as the high elevation of 6,632 feet and dark skies make for perfect space watching.

"The summit of Mauna Kea may, in fact, be the darkest site anywhere in the world ... which of course means you can see deeper into space," said Doug Simons, executive director at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.

But Mauna Kea is also considered by some to be one of the most sacred spots in the state.

"It is without a doubt one of our most sacred places in all of Hawaii," Kaho'okahi Kanuha, a leader of the protectors, told CNN.

Kanuha says the dormant volcano is home to sacred waters and native Hawaiian deities. Revered ancestors are buried there, and it's been seen as a place where humans can enter heaven.

Rising tensions at the site last week led the governor to issue an emergency proclamation to help "protect the health, safety, and welfare" of the people.

The emergency proclamation gave law enforcement increased flexibility and authority to close more areas and restrict access on Mauna Kea, according to a statement from Gov. David Ige's office.

"Our top priority is the safety and security of our communities and the TMT construction teams. This is a long-term process and we are committed to enforcing the law and seeing this project through," Ige said.

At least 38 protesters have been arrested in the last few weeks while blocking access to Mauna Kea, prompting the Ige to reach out to the mayor of Hawaii County to help resolve the issues.

Ige said he reached out to Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim to coordinate efforts to reach a common ground with the protectors of Mauna Kea.

"We both share the goal of achieving a resolution that is peaceful and satisfactory to as many as possible in the community," Ige said in a statement.

CNN's Konstantin Toropin contributed to this report.

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