Representatives from Okinawa held a rally in central Tokyo Sunday opposing the deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps’ controversial MV-22 Osprey aircraft to the island prefecture.
The rally, held in Hibiya Park, brought together more than 4,000 people, including representatives from all 41 of Okinawa’s municipalities and other protesters, organizers said.
The participants demanded the withdrawal of the dozen Ospreys deployed and the cancellation of additional deployments planned for the odd-looking tilt-rotor transport, which takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane and has a spotty safety record.
After the rally, the protesters staged a march to the Ginza shopping district to denounce the heavy concentration of U.S. bases in Okinawa as “discrimination.”
The rally was organized by an Okinawa committee jointly led by Takeshi Onaga, mayor of the Okinawan capital Naha, and Masaharu Kina, chairman of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly.
“Our fundamental human rights have been trampled on. Our anger has boiled over,” Onaga said. “Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe has said he will take back Japan, but is Okinawa included in it?”
Utako Mizuno, a 21-year-old university student from the Okinawan capital Naha, urged people from outside Okinawa to try to empathize with its residents and take action.
Yuhei Mizoguchi, 21, from Hachioji in western Tokyo, recalled his visit last summer to Okinawa, where U.S. military planes are a common sight. “It is a problem not only for Okinawa but for the whole of Japan,” he said.
A squadron of 12 Ospreys was deployed to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan in October last year, despite heavy opposition from local leaders and residents, who are worried about the hybrid aircraft’s checkered safety record. Another 12 Ospreys will arrive there next summer.
In addition, the U.S. Air Force is considering plans to deploy its own Osprey variant, the CV-22, at Kadena Air Base, just north of Ginowan.
Some of the participants will visit the prime minister’s official residence and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Monday to press their case.