Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

 Protesters attempt to block work on a U.S. air base by protesting at the gate of the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, October 29, 2015. (Photo: Kyodo/Reuters)

Protesters attempt to block work on a U.S. air base by protesting at the gate of the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, October 29, 2015. (Photo: Kyodo/Reuters)

Vowing to Stop US Military Base, Okinawa Elders Dragged Away by Riot Police

'Don't the people of Okinawa have sovereignty?'

Sarah Lazare

Elders were dragged away by riot police on Thursday after linking arms, lying on the ground, and blocking vehicles in a bid to physically prevent the construction of a widely-opposed U.S. military base in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan.

Hundreds joined in the demonstration in front of Camp Schwab with the aim of stopping vehicles from transporting materials to build the American installation. "Don't lend a hand in the construction of the military base!" the crowd chanted.

"Don't the people of Okinawa have sovereignty?" 70-year-old Katsuhiro Yoshida, an Okinawa prefectural assembly member, told Japanese paper The Asahi Shimbun. "This reminds me of the scenes of rioting against the U.S. military before Okinawa was returned to Japan (in 1972). Now we are facing off against our own government. It is so contemptible."

The confrontation was captured in the following video footage:

Okinawa is home to over half of the 50,000 U.S. military service members in Japan, and over two-thirds of U.S. military bases in the country.

For nearly 20 years, the U.S. has sought to transfer the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Okinawa base from the city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago, further to the north.

This plan is overwhelmingly opposed by the people of Okinawa and has been met with protests by tens of thousands of residents, who warn of the hazards of proximity to the U.S. military presence, including sexual assaults by service members, violence, and the environmental threat to the area's ecosystems.

Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, elected on an anti-base pledge, two weeks ago revoked the permit for the U.S. miltiary installation. But Japan's land ministry announced this week that it is overriding Onaga's blockage and permitting the defense ministry to resume work on the controversial base.

"The fact that they forcibly executed this construction, there is nothing but anger," Takashi Kishimoto from the Okinawa Peace Movement Center told NBC News. "We are outraged at these political tactics which ignore will of the people."

The Okinawa protests follow nationwide mass mobilizations against the militarization of Japanese society, including the recent passage of a series of widely unpopular that would allow the country's soldiers to participate in the foreign wars of the United States and other allies.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientists Revive ‘Zombie’ Virus After 50,000 Years Trapped in Siberian Permafrost

Researchers documented 13 never-before-seen viruses that have been lying dormant, frozen in thick ice, over tens of thousands of years.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Cleaner Air Is Coming' as London Expands Vehicle Pollution Fee to Entire Metro Area

"Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs," noted Mayor Sadiq Khan in announcing the expansion.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Amazing News': Historic Shark Protections Approved at Global Wildlife Convention

Up to 90% of sharks targeted by the lucrative fin trade will now be protected, said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'The Nightmare Materializes': Far-Right Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir to Be Israel's National Security Minister

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Palestinian Authority said Ben-Gvir's elevation to national security minister could have a "catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Jake Johnson ·


Raging Wars, Soaring Hunger Put Women and Girls in Crosshairs, Warns UN

"A toxic mix of crises—conflicts, climate, skyrocketing costs, and the ripple effects of the Ukraine war—are inflicting a devastating toll on the forcibly displaced. This is being felt across the world, but women and girls are particularly suffering."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo