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HOME  > Past issues  > 2013 October 23 - 29  > Takae residents in Okinawa continues nonviolent resistance
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2013 October 23 - 29 [OKINAWA]

Takae residents in Okinawa continues nonviolent resistance

October 28, 2013
The Takae district of Higashi Village is located in northern Okinawa’s rich forest. People there are continuing a sit-in protest against the construction of helipads for U.S. Ospreys.

Around seven in the evening of October 20, a dozen members and supporters of a local group were having a party enjoying a local dish “Yagijiru (goat soup)” at the group’s office near the U.S. Northern Training Area. Group leader Isa Masatsugu said, “We get together to eat and sing to relax so we can continue with this protest.” Another leader Ashimine Gentatsu said that people there eat dishes and share vegetables they make. “All we want is our normal lives,” added the co-representative.

After midnight, some members went out to a sit-in tent in front of the main gate of the training site. They go there to monitor to see if anyone shows up from the Okinawa Defense Bureau or construction companies to force through the construction by surprise.

The training facility has 22 landing pads. The Japanese and U.S. governments are seeking to relocate six out of the 22 to the place encircling the Takae district where 160 people live.

Their nonviolent sit-in protest began in 2007. The government took a legal action against 15 residents, including a 7-year-old girl who never even went to the sit-in site, on the charge of obstructing traffic. The defense authorities filed this lawsuit obviously for the purpose of splitting the residents.

Court cases that intimidate communities or people into remaining silent are called SLAPP suits, standing for strategic lawsuit against public participation.

The Naha District Court unfairly judged the action of Isa, the group leader, as blocking traffic. After the Fukuoka High Court dismissed his appeal, Isa in July took the case to the Supreme Court.

He said, “To silence someone who opposes government plans by demonizing that person as an ‘impeder’, citizens’ protests will diminish and people will become reluctant to speak up against authorities. I want my case ruling to be reversed in the top court.”

A sit-in demonstrator said, “In solidarity with our resistance here, it is important to increase the movement in mainland Japan. Only by doing so, can we gain enough power to move the government.”
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