- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Eight people were detained early Wednesday in the latest round of arrests in an ongoing battle over construction of a giant telescope atop a mountain many Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

The state Department of Land and Natural resources said 20 of its officers arrested the seven women and one man on Mauna Kea at about 1 a.m. The officers were enforcing an emergency rule created to stop people from camping on Mauna Kea.

The land board approved the rule in July. It restricts access to the mountain during certain nighttime hours and prohibits certain camping gear.

The rule was prompted by protesters’ around-the-clock presence to prevent construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Construction at the telescope site near the summit has been stalled since April.

Protesters say officers hauled them away while they were praying. In video provided by the state, officers are seen walking toward a group of people huddled in a circle and chanting.

Officers had to pull the arrested man, Bronson Kobayashi, off the roof of a wood-and-straw hut, where he appeared to be filming the arrests. Four officers carried him away. Kobayashi, 23, couldn’t the rule immediately be reached for comment.

His bail was set at $1,000 because he’s a repeat offender of, the state said. Bail for the women was set at $250.

The emergency rule, in place for 120 days, is intended to make the mountain safe for protesters, visitors and workers at the 13 telescopes already on the mountain, the state said.

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin told the land board that even though camping already was prohibited on the mountain, a targeted rule was necessary because of bad behavior by some protesters - ranging from putting boulders in the road to threats and harassment.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a public agency tasked with improving Native Hawaiians’ wellbeing, opposed the rule and urged the state to stop enforcing it.

The office condemned the arrests in a statement Wednesday.

“It is our understanding that the individuals were arrested this morning while they were in the act of pule, or prayer,” the statement said. “Native Hawaiians have constitutionally protected rights to reasonably engage in traditional and customary practices, and regulations cannot eliminate the exercise of these rights.”

The rule restricts people’s access to the mountain during certain nighttime hours, unless they’re in a moving vehicle.

Joshua Wisch, a spokesman for Chin’s office, noted in an email that anyone who wishes is free to pray or protest in the restricted area between 4 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The nonprofit company building the Thirty Meter Telescope hasn’t indicated when it will attempt to resume construction.

Workers were unable reach the site during two previous attempts, when they were blocked by hundreds of protesters, including dozens who were arrested.

This was the fourth time telescope opponents have been arrested on the mountain.

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at https://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .

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