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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 January 6 - 12  > After Koza ‘uprising’ 50 years ago, Okinawans still fight against US military’s outrageous acts
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2021 January 6 - 12 [US FORCES]

After Koza ‘uprising’ 50 years ago, Okinawans still fight against US military’s outrageous acts

January 12, 2021

Akahata ‘morning breeze’ column

In the early hours of December 20, 1970, triggered by a fatal drunk-driving accident involving a U.S. soldier, crowds of local people in Okinawa’s Koza City (currently Okinawa City) conducted violent protests setting fire to more than 80 U.S. military vehicles and stoning the U.S. military facility in the city. At that time, as Okinawa was placed under U.S. military rule, the local police were unable to exercise jurisdiction over American soldiers who frequently commit brutal crimes. In December of that year, a U.S. serviceman who killed an Okinawan woman in Itoman City walked free, which caused fury among Okinawans.

What happened in Koza was a fiery outburst of simmering anger in Okinawans. The U.S. military regarded the incident as a “riot” and intended to deal with the situation by such means as allowing well-armed soldiers to fire warning shots to disperse the crowd. In the incident, more than 88 Okinawans and U.S. soldiers were injured. Local police authorities arrested some Koza residents on a charge of staging a riot. However, no one was indicted because the police could not identify any leaders. This means that Koza people spontaneously took part in the action based on their self-motivation and thus their act should be considered as the use of their legal right to civil resistance.

It is notable that in the uprising, the crowd did not burn military vehicles driven by African-American soldiers who were experiencing discrimination within the U.S. military and that days after the incident, these soldiers distributed leaflets expressing their solidarity with Okinawans. This shows that the Koza residents’ act was also fighting against racial discrimination.

Fifty years have passed since the Koza uprising and Okinawans are still forced to shoulder U.S. base burdens, and the fight 50 years ago based on the right to civil resistance has continued unabated to this day.
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