HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hundreds gathered at the base of Maunakea to peacefully protest the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), which is scheduled to begin construction Monday morning, July 15.

A cultural ceremony has been taking place at Puu Huluhulu every hour since sunrise on Sunday, July 14.

“This is a joyful occasion this is a celebratory occasion to reconnect in this way and then to reaffirm our Kuliana,” said Na Wahine Apapalani Luana Busby Neff.

She says it’s been a spiritual day.

“I think everyone was ready for a day like this there has been so much negativity thrown at us and then trying to turn it on the Hawaiian people,” she said.

The Kiai, or protectors, of Maunakea, designated the place as a city of refuge or Puu Honua. In Hawaiian culture, this city of refuge has been recognized as a safe place to prevent clashes and provide amnesty.

On Sunday, the Kiai are using it as a place to prevent clashes with law-enforcement. They chose this particular place because it has cultural significance.

“We chose this place also because there’s an ahu here at people connected to Maunakea have been coming here for years and years. For those who are not able to access the mountain would use this place as he stopping area a place to offer their prayers,” said Kahookahi Kanuha, a Kiai of Maunakea.

They have restroom facilities, water, and other amenities for those who have gathered. It’s also an area that allows them to protest without blocking Maunakea access road, which the state will close at 7 a.m. Monday to bring in the heavy equipment for construction.

Many of those gathered plan to stay overnight but they’ve heard that they may be asked to leave the area that they have designated as a safe space to exercise their right to protest.

“I think what they really want to talk about is a safe place. If they want me to sit at home on my couch and watch the live stream of those machines going up, that’s not going to happen. So we are here and we’re taking it upon ourselves in a cultural way to provide that safety,” said Kanuha.