Narita airport foes’ huts razed

AFP-JIJI

Work crews on Wednesday began demolishing two huts built in 1971 on land earmarked for Narita International Airport, relics of the radical protests over the building of the airport.

The structures are a legacy of bloody protests that left police officers dead as homemade bombs were tossed by leftist students, activists and farmers who said they were the victims of a land grab.

Dozens of huts were built in a bid to halt the construction of the huge airport in a rural area around 50 km outside Tokyo.

Some remained as the airport was built around them, leaving one of the taxiways bent.

The razing of two huts was given the green light by the Tokyo High Court in April after it ruled in favor of a landowner who asked for the return of a family plot.

“We will start the court enforcement of vacation of the land,” an official from the Chiba District Court announced at the site Wednesday as some 30 gray-haired protesters attempted to stop the work crews.

Around 100 police officers moved them along and there were no reports of injuries or major trouble, according to the Chiba Prefecture Police.

“We will not let it happen,” a protester said via a megaphone, while fellow activists held banners declaring “we will not allow the destruction” of the buildings.

At the height of radicalism in the 1970s, thousands of extreme leftists congregated at dozens of similar huts in and around the area in a bid to stymie the airport. Some structures were even elevated in a bid to obstruct air traffic once the airport opened.

The government decided in 1966 to build the airport outside the capital after Haneda airport reached its capacity.

As the authorities began expropriating farmland, many family farmers physically fought back. They were later joined by leftist students and activists.

There were regular clashes between riot police and thousands of protesters, some of whom threw homemade explosives. One activist and at least three police officers were killed.