The Latest: Protesters demand removal of gate on summit road

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Giant Telescope

A police officer gestures at demonstrators blocking a road at the base of Hawaii's tallest mountain, Monday, July 15, 2019, in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, who are protesting the construction of a giant telescope on land that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

MAUNA KEA, Hawaii (AP) — The Latest on the start of work to build a massive telescope on a site considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians (all times local):

5:50 p.m.

Protesters demonstrating against the construction of a giant telescope at the summit of Hawaii's tallest mountain are demanding that state officials remove a gate on the road leading to the project site.

Telescope opponent Kealoha Pisciotta said Monday officials installed the gate shortly after protesters lying down on the ground to block the road got up after being assured they wouldn't be arrested.

She says swooping in to install the gate undermines trust that had been developing between law enforcement and protesters. She says it puts people in danger.

She says protesters are singing and chanting "take down the gate."

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the base of Mauna Kea Monday, when state officials planned to close the summit road so they could bring equipment to the construction site in coming days.

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3:45 p.m.

A Thirty Meter Telescope spokesman says crews won't immediately be taking equipment up to the project site near the summit of Hawaii's tallest mountain.

Hundreds of people had gathered at the base of Mauna Kea to protest the telescope Monday, when officials planned to close the road to the summit so that in the coming days they could begin bringing equipment to the construction site.

Eight protesters removed themselves from a grate on the road after authorities told them they wouldn't be arrested.

Telescope spokesman Scott Ishikawa says there was no equipment scheduled to go up on Monday.

Protesters say they plan to return Tuesday.

Those who oppose the telescope say it will desecrate land held sacred by some Native Hawaiians. Supporters say it will bring economic, educational and scientific opportunities to the state.

3 p.m.

Eight people protesting a giant telescope planned for a Hawaii mountain are no longer attached to a grate on the road to the summit.

Protester Walter Ritte says he and seven others removed themselves after 11 hours on the grate Monday. He says they got up because authorities told them they wouldn't be arrested.

Ritte says their arms were connected through a series of pipes under the grate that would have had to be cut if they didn't voluntarily remove themselves.

Hundreds gathered at the base of Mauna Kea to protest the start of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Ritte says protesters will return Tuesday to ensure no construction trucks go up the mountain.

There were no arrests by mid-afternoon. Officials say their priority is installing concrete barriers along a nearby highway to create a buffer between speeding cars and the large numbers of people congregating in the area.

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12:30 p.m.

Hawaii officials say crews will spend a few hours installing concrete barriers along a highway shoulder to protect large numbers of people gathered for a protest against plans to build a giant telescope.

Hawaii Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla told reporters Monday the presence of large numbers of people near cars traveling at highway speeds presents a very dangerous situation.

Redulla says the barriers will create a safety buffer between people and traffic.

He says there are no current plans to install barriers along the access road to the mountain summit where the Thirty Meter Telescope is slated to be built. Protesters are blocking that road.

Redulla says the safety of the public in the area is law enforcement's priority.

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8:30 a.m.

Hawaii officials have closed a road leading to the summit of the state's tallest mountain, the site of an embattled giant telescope project.

The road was officially closed Monday, but protesters who say they're protecting Mauna Kea from desecration had already blocked it.

A group of elders tied together at the entrance to the road are expected to be arrested. After speaking with police, protest leaders say the group will step aside, but the elders will remain.

Hundreds gathered to protest the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, hoping to stop construction convoys from delivering equipment to the top.

Another group of telescope foes have attached themselves to a cattle grate on the ground. Protesters are singing and chanting.

Scientists hope building a massive telescope on a world-renowned location for astronomy will help answer fundamental questions about the universe.

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8:00 a.m.

Police have arrived to close a road leading to the summit of Hawaii's tallest mountain, where hundreds have gathered to protest building a giant telescope on land some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Police are speaking with protesters gathered Monday at the base of Mauna Kea. Officials plan to close the road to the summit so that construction convoys can deliver equipment to the site.

At the entrance to the road, there are about two dozen kupuna, or elders, tied together on the ground. Another group of telescope foes have attached themselves to a cattle grate on the ground.

Officials say anyone breaking the law will be prosecuted. Protesters who blocked the roadway during previous attempts to begin construction have been arrested.

Scientists hope building a massive telescope on a world-renowned location for astronomy will help answer fundamental questions about the universe.

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7:45 a.m.

More protesters who oppose building a giant telescope on Hawaii's tallest mountain are tying themselves together with rope to block a road to the summit.

They sang and chanted as the sun came up Monday on the morning crews are expected to bring construction equipment to Mauna Kea.

Hundreds have gathered at the site, which some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Police are watching. Officials say anyone breaking the law will be prosecuted. Protesters who blocked the roadway during previous attempts to begin construction have been arrested.

Telescope opponent Jennifer Leina'ala Sleightholm says she hopes construction convoys turn around and leave. She says protesters will remain peaceful.

Scientists hope the telescope will help them peer back to the time just after the Big Bang and answer fundamental questions about the universe.

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5:10 a.m.

A group of elders has tied themselves together with rope, blocking a road to the summit of Hawaii's tallest mountain Monday morning.

They are protesting the start of construction of a giant telescope on land that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred. No arrests were reported.

Hundreds have gathered at the protest site.

Officials say anyone breaking the law will be prosecuted. Protesters who blocked the roadway during previous attempts to begin construction have been arrested.

Scientists hope the massive telescope will help them peer back to the time just after the Big Bang and answer fundamental questions about the universe.

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4:05 a.m.

State and local officials will try to close a road to the summit of Hawaii's tallest mountain Monday morning to allow trucks carrying construction equipment to make their way to the top to begin construction of a giant telescope on land that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Hundreds of demonstrators are gathered to protest the construction.

Officials say anyone breaking the law will be prosecuted. Protesters who blocked the roadway during previous attempts to begin construction have been arrested.

Scientists hope the massive telescope will help them peer back to the time just after the Big Bang and answer fundamental questions about the universe.

But some Native Hawaiians consider the land holy, as a realm of gods and a place of worship.

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5:20 p.m. Sunday

About a hundred protesters are holding a vigil at the base of an access road to the construction site of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The protesters, who oppose building the telescope on what they say is sacred land atop Mauna Kea mountain, blew conch shells and held Hawaiian religious ceremonies Sunday. A police car drove by the scene.

Work on the telescope is scheduled to start Monday. Scientists hope the massive telescope they plan to build atop Hawaii's highest peak, a world-renowned location for astronomy, will help answer fundamental questions about the universe.

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3:30 p.m.

At a short news conference Sunday, Gov. David Ige said that "respected the right of people to protest" at the site of the Thirty Meter Telescope as long as protesters behave lawfully.

Ige noted that several hundred people were at a vigil Sunday near the construction site.

"As construction begins, our number one priority is keeping everyone safe," Ige said, adding that he wants to make sure construction workers and truck drivers have unimpeded access to the telescope site.

Ige said that law enforcement agencies have prepared for every scenario, and they have coordinated their efforts.

Scientists hope the massive telescope they plan to build atop Hawaii's highest peak, a world-renowned location for astronomy, will help answer fundamental questions about the universe.

But the site where they plan to build is considered by some Native Hawaiians as a realm of gods and a place of worship and prayer.

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5:51 a.m.

Scientists hope the massive telescope they plan to build atop Hawaii's highest peak, a world-renowned location for astronomy, will help them peer back to the time just after the Big Bang and answer fundamental questions about the universe.

But the site where they plan to build is considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians — a realm of gods and a place of worship and prayer.

The road to Mauna Kea's summit will be closed Monday morning as trucks carrying construction gear start to make their way to the peak.

Alongside them will be Native Hawaiian and other protesters who are willing to get arrested to stop the development.

The project already has been delayed by years of legal battles and demonstrations, drawing attention from the likes of "Aquaman" actor Jason Momoa, who has Native Hawaiian ancestry and has voiced opposition to the telescope.