Caleb Jones / AP

Hawaii telescope protesters to take down tent

Protesters blocking construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea will no longer be on site 24/7

People against building a giant telescope atop a Hawaiian mountain say they will no longer keep an around-the-clock vigil on Mauna Kea.

They reached an agreement with the state to take down a large tent where people have been sleeping in an attempt to block construction workers from accessing the site for the planned $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

Hawaii officials announced the agreement Thursday.

"Our purpose for the 24/7 vigil was originally intended because at the beginning of this, there was no telling when construction workers would come," said Lanakila Mangauil, one of the protest leaders.

There's no longer any need to stay overnight on the mountain because protesters will trust the state to warn them when the nonprofit company building the telescope plans to resume construction, Mangauil said.

"We've achieved our goal of being able to protect the mountain," he said of the two instances when construction crews retreated after encountering protesters.

A hale, which the protestors called their “spiritual house,” will remain at the site, reported the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

In the last five months the summit which is sacred to Native Hawaiians has been a battleground. After plans were announced to build the world’s most powerful telescope atop the mountain, protestors, who call themselves protectors blocked construction crews and equipment from accessing the summit. The project by the University of California, the California Institute of Technology and a consortium of international organizations has been in development for a decade.

It is unclear when construction will resume.

"We have not yet determined a date for when construction will resume," TMT International Observatory Board member Michael Bolte said in a statement. "TMT will continue to work cooperatively with all parties involved as it considers its eventual restart."

The protesters' camping on the mountain prompted the state land board to approve an emergency rule in July aimed at prohibiting people from being on the mountain during certain nighttime hours, unless in a moving vehicle.

Taking down the tent doesn't mean they're giving up, Mangauil said. "At this point, it's a matter of conserving resources," he said of the food, equipment and time needed to camp on the mountain, especially as temperatures are stopping to drop.

Protesters will continue to have a presence on the mountain during the day, he said.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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