35,000 attend rally demanding construction stops at new US base

35,000 attend rally demanding construction stops at new US base

About 35,000 people took part in a mass rally held on May 17 at Okinawa Cellular Stadium Naha, which demanded a halt to the construction of a new U.S. base in Henoko. (Photograph taken by Futoshi Hanashiro)

May 18, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

A huge rally against the construction of a new U.S. base in Henoko in Nago, where the governments of Japan and the United States plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, was held on May 17 at Okinawa Cellular Stadium in Naha. About 35,000 people gathered at the rally and adopted a resolution to block the construction of the new base. The participants demonstrated to people in the Japanese mainland and abroad how the Okinawan popular will is opposed to the new base, something also apparent from the results of the Nago mayoral election, the Governor’s race and the election of the House of Representatives held last year.

The central government has alleged that the only way to close and return the Futenma base to local ownership is by relocating it to Henoko. Okinawa Governor Takeshi stated, “The only solution to the issue is to block the relocation.”

When the governor concluded his speech with the phrase in Shimakutuba (Okinawan dialect), “Do not neglect the Okinawa people!” the crowd responded with a standing ovation.

The central government aims to start landfill work in Henoko this summer as part of the construction of the new base. The rally marked a surge in support for the campaign, led by the governor, to stop the relocation plan. This is the third mass rally that has been held to oppose the Henoko relocation. The first was in Yomitan in April, 2010. The second was also held in Ginowan City in September, 2012 to protest against the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft and to ask for cancellation of the henoko relocation.

Before Sunday’s rally started at 1:00 p.m., many people from various districts in Okinawa and other prefectures filled the seats of the stadium. Unable to get seats, many others sat on the bleachers or outside the stadium. The participants raised signs saying “No Henoko Base,” “We will not yield.” The resolution calling for the closure and removal of the Futenma base and the halting of construction at Henoko was approved with thunderous applause.

The governor reiterated his determination that he would block the building of the new base in Henoko using every means available. He criticized the Abe administration for its eagerness to push through the Henoko relocation, saying, “This is a corruption of Japanese politics.” “I don’t know how the country will be able to share a similar set of values with other leaders in the world, without guaranteeing freedom, human rights and the values of democracy for its own people. I would like the security alliance between the US and Japan to have more dignity.”

The rally organizers were members of the ruling parties of the prefectural assembly, leaders of the business community and citizens’ groups. They will visit the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on May 25 to submit the resolution approved by the rally. Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine and Chokei Taira, co-leader of the Shimagurumi-kaigi, will visit the United States with Governor Onaga from May 27.

(English translation by T&CT)

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