Tens of thousands participate in protest rally against Osprey deployment in Okinawa

Tens of thousands participate in protest rally against Osprey deployment in Okinawa

Just after noon on September 9, at the Ginowan Seaside Park, protesters carried placards saying no to the Osprey deployment. (Photograph taken by Futoshi Hanashiro)

September 10, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

At 11:00am on September 9, a mass rally was held at the Ginowan Seaside Park to protest against the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

According to rally organizers, 101000 people took part in Ginowan, so combined with the participants in events in Yaeyama and Miyako, a total of about 103000 gathered for the rallies. This makes it the biggest U.S. base-related protest rally since Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty. Okinawan people strongly oppose the planned deployment of the Osprey because of safety concerns about the aircraft in Japan following crashes this year. The rally adopted resolutions against the deployment of the Osprey to Futenma Air Station, and demanded the early closure of the base and the return of the land it occupies. Representing the all-party group reflecting the will of the Okinawan people, members of the rally executive committee plan to visit Tokyo on September 12 to demand that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and other government officials cancel the deployment. At the beginning of October they will also visit Washington, D.C. to request the cancellation of the deployment plan.

While 36 heads of municipalities and deputies participated in the rally in Ginowan, those of Yaeyama and Miyako participated in rallies held in their districts. Members of the prefectural assembly, Diet members from Okinawa, and heads of municipal assemblies lined up on stage.

Five joint representatives gave speeches. Masaharu Kina, head of the prefectural assembly, stated, “There have been Osprey crashes this year. I have to say that the aircraft is structurally flawed.” Takeshi Onaga, head of the Okinawa Mayors Association, asserted, “It is unacceptable to let the Osprey fly over the residents of Okinawa after these consecutive crashes.”

Atsushi Sakima, mayor of Ginowan, which hosts Futenma Air Station where the Osprey is scheduled to be deployed, said, “Bringing them here will increase the burden on the residents of Ginowan. We cannot be assured of their safety, so it is unacceptable to deploy these aircraft on the base.”
Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima did not attend the rally, but instead sent a message to those who did. When they heard the message, the participants yelled out in indignation, transforming the scene into tumultuous uproar for a short time.

Yoshikazu Tamaki, head of the executive committee, proposed to request to the heads of municipalities in Japan that could be influenced by the Osprey deployment, that they adopt resolutions, also to hold protest rallies in front of the gate of Futenma Air Station every weekend, and to conduct a campaign to collect signatures. The end the rally, Toshiyasu Shiroma, head of the town and village assembly, urged in attendance to shout “Ganbaro!” three times.

The rally was co-hosted by the 31 organizations that make up the executive committee and another 153 organizations. The participants wore red-colored clothes and accessories to represent showing a “red card” to the U.S. and Japanese governments for promoting the deployment of the Osprey.
(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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