Editorial: Deployment of Tokyo riot police threatens human rights and must be stopped

November 6, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

Unjustified oppression of non-violent protest activity is not acceptable. The government must put an immediate stop to excessive security measures threatening the human rights of citizens.

For the first time, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has sent more than 100 riot police members to patrol Camp Schwab’s gate to facilitate the construction of a new base in Henoko, Nago. One man was arrested on the spot on suspicion of obstructing officers on duty, and another was injured and carried away in an ambulance.

This is an abnormal situation. At a regular meeting in September, the prefectural Public Safety Commission called for “continued careful attention” to be given during patrolling of the Camp Schwab gate.

The Public Safety Commission feared a contingency arising due to the behavior of the police. The Metropolitan Police Department’s deployment of the riot police is precisely the kind of excessive security measure that the Commission had feared.

The protests to prevent the construction of the new base are founded in a common desire to escape the oppression of military bases that have continuously endangered the lives and property of Okinawans for seventy years since the end of World War II. The protests are fully protected by the right to free speech guaranteed by the Constitution of Japan.
The sit-ins and demonstrations held near the Camp Schwab gate represent a minimal expression of opposition to the Abe administration’s forceful implementation of the new base construction. It is unacceptable to try to suppress such opposition with brute force.

The arrest of one man is also of dubious justifiability. Footage taken by Ryukyu Shimpo reporters and other citizens show that a police officer’s hand first reached out toward the man’s back, and the man, losing his balance, fell toward the officer with his right leg lifting up.

We must thoroughly investigate who actually initiated the clash leading to the man’s arrest. We must not allow unjustified arrests on suspicion of obstructing official duties the moment citizens resist intentional provocations by the police.

Citizens forcibly removed from the area directly in front of the gate are also being temporarily detained in an area of the road surrounded by a metal fence. Going so far as to detain citizens after they have been removed from the scene constitutes “preventative detention” and is unjustifiable.

Tatsushi Yokota, a lawyer who has been involved in the lawsuit in which two Takae residents were charged with obstructing traffic while protesting the helipad construction there, criticized the police’s behavior, saying, “To confine people to a single spot without a warrant is a transgression of the law.” We must not ignore legally questionable actions by the police.

The government has filed a request for administrative review, demanding a stay of execution in response to the governor of Okinawa’s revocation of the land reclamation permit. In filing this request the government is acting in the guise of a private entity and making a mockery of fair legal procedure.

To alleviate the abnormal situation in front of the Camp Schwab gate, the government should immediately put a halt to the base construction and remove the Metropolitan Police Department’s riot police from Okinawa.

(Translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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