Police in riot gear are lined up on a road in Hawaii where an estimated 2,000 people are gathered to protest construction of a telescope on a mountain that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred, on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe says officials on Wednesday closed a highway leading to the protest site so a convoy of construction equipment can be brought up Mauna Kea. Protesters are off to the side of the road, singing. (Cindy Ellen Russell/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

Hawaii expands power to block telescope protesters

July 18, 2019 - 1:01 am

HONOLULU (AP) — Thousands of protesters joined a swelling effort to stop construction of a telescope they have long tried to keep off a mountain considered sacred to some Native Hawaiians, blocking a road to Hawaii's highest peak and prompting the arrest of a group of elderly demonstrators.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation Wednesday giving law enforcement agencies the power to close off areas and restrict access to Mauna Kea.

The governor says the state hadn't decided whether to remove protesters from the mountain, but the proclamation makes that an option.

Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe said about 2,000 people packed the base of Mauna Kea after the arrests.

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Associated Press journalist Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu contributed.

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