Editorial: The marvelously non-violent sit-in at Camp Schwab lasts 500 consecutive days

November 20, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

How on earth does one measure the gravity of a single wish, pursued by many people together? On November 18, the sit-in protest in front of the gate of Camp Schwab, Henoko, Nago, by citizens opposing construction of a new U.S. base reached its 500th consecutive day.

More than 1,000 people took part in the sit-in on this day. Japanese government officials who have not been to the gates of Camp Schwab before do not know how many hours it will take to go to Henoko. Going on a weekday from the prefectural office, Naha, for example, is nearly impossible. One will only make the trip to Camp Schwab if one truly desires to do so. Not only does one need the desire, but the energy and proper circumstances in order to go. There are many people without the necessary means to make their way to Camp Schwab.

Despite the difficulty of transit, people have continued the protest for 500 consecutive days. Citizens have made their intent clear at the polls, and it would be good to see the focus of this intent implemented. Where else in the world can one find local people making such great efforts and large sacrifices for the realization of such simple, modest hopes?

Furthermore, the great efforts made by local residents do not end at the gates to Camp Schwab. The sit-in at the tent near Henoko fishery harbor has continued for 4,232 consecutive days (11 years and 7 months). Even in light of the efforts of local people, the Government of Japan (GOJ) crushes the people’s popular will with strong-arm tactics. There is nothing democratic about that.

The most marvelous part of the efforts citizens make in sparing great amounts of their time is that they remain completely non-violent.

All over the world there are movements of people who cannot help but hold out hope for what they desire, and expend extraordinary amounts of time protesting for the realization of their wishes. In many of these cases, should their resistance be trampled upon, the protesters turn to extreme conduct. Okinawa strikes a high contrast worthy of praise in that its people maintain a completely non-violent demonstration of discontent.

It is in fact the GOJ, rather than Okinawa, that displays violence in this disagreement. One protester was been knocked down and injured in the street, and another had her head submerged underwater. Ambulances have been dispatched multiple times, and on each occasion the people transported have been on the side of the protesters. Also on November 18, one citizen nearly lost consciousness while some members of the coast guard were pinning him down. How is the GOJ so uncivilized?

The GOJ is being backed into a corner. In recent days the GOJ filed a lawsuit to overturn the prefectural governor’s rejection of the landfill permit. Although many say the GOJ’s victory is a foregone conclusion, the method by which the case has been filed is questionable, making the outcome unpredictable. The Okinawa Prefectural Government also plans to file a case. There’s a good chance that the prefectural government will be able to suspend construction in accordance with the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. If the governor of Okinawa and mayor of Nago attempt every possible method of halting construction, completion of the project will become nearly impossible.

Most importantly, domestic public opinion is in favor of Okinawa and the international community is watching Japan. The GOJ’s lack of civility appears to stem from impatience. Okinawa has justice on its side.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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