[Editorial] Japanese coast guard officers should not use brute force against Henoko protesters

September 12, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

A Japanese coast guard officer has intimidated a man by pressing his hand against the man’s throat. Another twisted a woman’s arm.

Such acts of violence are taking place on a daily basis, on the sea surrounding Henoko in Nago .

We definitely cannot allow the Japanese government to condone the use of brute force to restrain civilians protesting against the unwanted construction of a new base to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Henoko, Nago.

Despite several civilian injuries, the Japanese coast guard has not provided an explanation, and claims it does not know what happened.

Despite the media reporting on the use of force by coast guard officers against civilians, the coast guard has not even tried to clarify the facts. This leads us to think they must approve of the violence. We have to assume the agency has established a security policy condoning the removal of protesters by brute force.
When has the agency ever stooped so low as to become a violent organization?

The agency deems the act of protesters going beyond the floats marking a new restricted area as a “crime.” Despite temporarily constraining civilians, sometimes resulting in injury, the coast guard claims this is its way of “asking protestors to voluntarily leave the area to secure their safety”.

Based on the coast guard officers’ conduct on the water, “securing safety” clearly means safety of the construction site, not the safety of the civilians who protest. It is in doubt whether the agency is really concerned at all about the safety of civilians.

The director of the agency Yuji Sato said, “The officers have been doing well to secure safety.”

His statement is beyond belief. Any way you look at it, the top officials in the agency clearly approve of the violence that is in fact putting protestors in danger, not securing their safety.

The 11th Regional Maritime Safety Headquarters also claimed that what the coast guard officers are doing does not amount to a crack-down on the protesters. Such claims are at odds with the reality.

One of the protesters who went beyond the float was held under water by two officers several times. He said he felt his life was in danger. This is clearly an indication of a severe crackdown on civilians.

If the officers have been given orders not to allow the protesters to go beyond the floats, it is easy for them to do so without the use of violence because they are physically stronger than the protestors. It is an aberration that the officers are using gratuitous violence to remove the protestors.

One of the protesters was held in a “full nelson” (restrained at the neck and head) by three officers and his head was hit hard against the floor of the ship. He suffered from a cervical sprain which takes 10 days to heal completely. He filed a criminal complaint to the Naha District Court. The court has accepted it.

The agency should take notice of the fact that three of the coast guard officers have been charged with assault, and the district court has accepted the charges. We cannot comprehend why the officers continue to use a violent approach to security.

The agency should acknowledge the abnormality of suppressing non-confrontational civilians by brute force, and suspend its security activities.

(English translation by T&CT)

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