Ginoza residents protest against U.S. helicopter crash

Ginoza residents protest against U.S. helicopter crash

At 7:15 p.m. on August 22 at the Ginoza Doom, in Ginoza, protesters raised their fists as they called for the causes of the U.S. military helicopter crash to be revealed and measures taken to prevent a recurrence of the accident. (Photograph taken by Futoshi Hanashiro)

August 23, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

Ginoza residents held a protest rally at the Ginoza Dome in the evening of August 22 in response to the U.S. military helicopter crash earlier that month. Wearing red headbands to indicate their protest against the U.S. military, about 1,100 people from Ginoza and neighboring towns and villages took part. The participants raised their fists in anger to protest against the helicopter crash and to seek the reduction of the excessive burden that U.S. bases place on the residents. Just before the rally started, an HH-60 helicopter flew overhead. Because this is the very same model as that which crashed, many people yelled that the U.S. military was trying to make fools of the participants in the rally. This is the fifth time that Ginoza residents have held a rally to protest against the damage caused by U.S. military bases.

To great applause, the protesters adopted resolutions calling for the suspension of HH-60 helicopter flight training until the military determines the cause of the accident, takes preventive measures and offers compensation for damage. They also called for the withdrawal of all the Osprey aircraft.

In his speech, Mayor Atsushi Toma expressed a strong feeling of unrest that the U.S. military helicopter crashes have occurred three times in the area. He complained, “This is not a rally to assert political ideology. This is about protecting our lives and property.” He also appealed to the people, saying, “We must convey our ideas and feelings to Japanese and U.S. governments that reducing the burden of the bases on Okinawa must be taken seriously.”

Zenko Nakada, president of the Aged People Club Union, Takeshi Oshiro, the head of Ginoza Ward, Tetsuya Hirata, a third-grade pupil of Ginoza Junior High School and Kumiko Shimada, a member of the Matsuda District Women’s Association also gave speeches. Residents cheered, repeating Gambaro! (Let’s keep doing our best.)

On August 23, the members of the Ginoza Village Council on the U.S. Military Base Issues visited the Okinawa Defense Bureau and the Okinawa Prefectural Government to hand over the resolution statements.

The accident in question, in which one soldier died, occurred in the Central Training Area near Camp Hansen in Ginoza on August 5. An HH-60 helicopter belonging to Kadena Air Base crashed and burst into flames near the Okawa Dam during rescue and survival training. Wildfires occurred twice after the accident. When the U.S. military banned civilian aircraft from flying over the accident spot without legal basis, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport merely rubber stamped this action, inviting criticism of both the Japanese government and the U.S. military.

The U.S. military is regulating inspections of the crash site by the Japanese side, including Ginoza officials. The Ginoza Village Office has suspended the drawing water from the Okawa Dam reservoir until they confirm that it is safe to drink. The Okinawa Prefectural Government has taken samples of soil and water from the dam to check for the presence of radioactive materials or toxic substances.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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