2,800 protesters demand government stop construction of new US base in Henoko

2,800 protesters demand government stop construction of new US base in Henoko

About 2,800 took part in the Okinawan People's rally on February 22 in front of U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab. (Photograph taken by Masatoshi Moromizato)

February 23, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

The governments of Japan and the United States are advancing the construction of a new U.S. base in Henko, Nago, in order to relocate U.S. Marine Corp Air Station Futenma in Ginowan. On February 22, an Okinawan people’s rally protesting the construction of the base was held in front of Camp Schwab in Henoko. About 2,800 participants from in and outside Okinawa protested against the Okinawa Defense Bureau saying its drilling survey is destroying the environment. They also complained that excessive force is being used by the Japan Coast Guard and Okinawa Prefectural Police. The Executive Committee, which comprises members of civil groups, Diet members belonging to opposition parties, including those elected in the four single-seat constituencies in Okinawa Prefecture, and Okinawa Prefectural Assembly members belonging to five ruling parties, organized the rally.

Two protesters, including the director of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center Hiroji Yamashiro were apprehended by U.S. military on the morning of the same day. Yamashiro was scheduled to make a speech at the rally. The rally opened with the crowd yelling in chorus: “Let’s release our brothers!” “Don’t allow a wrongful arrest!”

Masaharu Kina, the chairperson of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly stated, “Assembly members are determined to cancel the Henoko relocation plan, working together with the people.” The assembly has adopted a resolution to seek cancellation of the new U.S. base.

Toshinobu Nakazato, a member of the House of Representatives, stressed, “In Okinawa’s post war history, the U.S. built military bases by using bayonet and bulldozers. We can’t give our hands to help build a new U.S. base in Okinawa.” He asked for united efforts in the ‘All-Okinawa’ movement, which helped all the candidates win in the gubernatorial race and the election of the House of Representatives.

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine said in his speech, “There are barbed-wire entanglements placed on both sides of the road. The scene symbolizes the real Okinawa. We have been forced to live in such a life for 70 years. Even more, the governments are building an air base which is going to be used for more than a hundred years. We cannot accept it.”

Hiroshi Ashitomi, co-representative of the Helicopter Base Objection Association, said, “We cannot allow an unlawful arrest by U.S. military. The U.S. military has occupied Okinawa and has built their bases by driving us out of our houses and fields without our permission. They have no right to ask for a new base.”

Okinawa Defense Bureau and Okinawa General Bureau have demanded removal of the tent set up by protesting residents near the gate of Camp Schwab. Takeryu Toguchi, a second-grade student of Nago Senior High School, made a speech, referring to the tent, “Isn’t it really the U.S. base that should be removed? It is not the tent.”

(English translation by T&CT)

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