Observatory says it was denied ‘critical’ maintenance opportunity

  • The scene of the TMT protests earlier today.

HILO — According to a statement from the Maunakea Observatories, a car containing technicians from Gemini Observatory was stopped by protesters from entering the Maunakea Access Road this morning.

The observatory had been assured access the previous day in conversation with law enforcement and the Office of Maunakea Management, according to the statement.

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“Despite prior public statements indicating observatory technicians would not be denied access to the telescopes, activists today contradicted their earlier position,” according to the statement. “Activists told observatory personnel that without a formal, public letter from the observatories — supporting activists’ demands of the state — access for critical technical maintenance is no longer supported.”

Upon initial approach, the car of technicians was initially waived through the bamboo gate; the driver stopped to speak with an official from the Office of Maunakea Management, at which point a kupuna approached the car, stating that access was not to be allowed, the statement said.

“Five additional activists then moved to stand in front of the car. This denial of access was contrary to the understanding of access approval by the Gemini crew members and the individual who had initially opened the gate.”

The car of technicians pulled to the side of the road at the request of the protesters and waited for approximately 45 minutes. During that time, activist leaders indicated that they were working to determine whether the technicians should be allowed access.

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The Gemini crew members elected to turn back. The crew was flagged down on their way away from the access point with an appeal from activists to continue to wait, according to the statement. The crew stopped to speak with the activists briefly before continuing to the Gemini base facility in Hilo.

The “planned technical work” would have taken the Gemini technicians approximately three hours to complete, according to Maunakea Observatories.

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