28,000 people surround National Diet Building in protest of building new base at Henoko
February 22, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
On the afternoon of February 21, according to the organizers , 28,000 people gathered and made a human chain encircling the National Diet Building to protest construction of a replacement facility for Futenma Air Station in Henoko, Nago. Participants wore blue to symbolize the ocean at Henoko and shouted slogans such as, “Don’t build the base, cease landfill work,” and “Don’t destroy Henoko’s ocean,” as they linked hands and surrounded the National Diet Building. The executive committee of Stop! Henoko Umetate, a group opposing landfill work in Henoko, and the executive action committee of a citizen’s group for protecting the war-renouncing constitution organized this encirclement protest. This is the fourth time the Diet Building has been encircled as a protest against new base construction in Henoko.
The executive committee of Stop! Henoko Umetate organized the last three Diet encirclement protests. The prior-mentioned executive action committee for a citizen’s group for protecting the war-renouncing constitution joined in organizing the fourth encirclement on February 21. According to the executive committee of Stop! Henoko Landfill, the first encirclement protest on January 25 last year drew about 7,000 participants, the second one on May 24 involved 15,000 participants, and the third occurrence on September 12 had 22,000 participants. This successive increase in participant numbers displays the expansion of popular will opposing construction of the new base in Henoko.
In relation to the Japanese government forcing construction of the new base, co-representative of the All Okinawa Council and Mayor of Nago City Susumu Inamine said that he wants the government to listen more attentively to the opinions of its citizens, and that Diet members must ensure that public opinion is reflected in Diet discussions. Co-representative of The Helicopter Base Objection Association Hiroshi Ashitomi, freelance writer Satoshi Kamata, and members of Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy RYUKYU (SEALDs RYUKYU) took the microphone and called for abandonment of new base construction. The February 21 encirclement protest to new base construction was the first protest since Governor Takeshi Onaga retracted the landfill permit, and the Japanese and Okinawa prefectural governments went to court over the issue.
31,000 people from eight municipalities nationwide gathered in Tokyo on February 21 to raise their voices and participate in simultaneous political action with Stop! Henoko Umetate. Simultaneous political action from across the nation has begun calling for suspension of new base construction. It began in Kochi Prefecture as of February 20, and the next day it started in Sapporo, Sendai, Toyama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Okayama.
(Translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)
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