NAGO, OKINAWA PREF. – A sit-in protest by citizens opposed to a planned U.S. base relocation within Okinawa Prefecture reached its 500th day on Wednesday.
According to organizers, some 1,000 people gathered to mark the day in front of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab in the Henoko coastal district of Nago, where the sit-in has been staged.
The gathering came a day after the government filed a lawsuit seeking court approval to overturn Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga’s refusal to reinstate permission for landfill work to continue to build a replacement facility in Henoko for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The participants in the sit-in protest, which started in July last year, voiced their determination to fight through in order to stop the facility’s construction.
When riot police and vehicles entered Camp Schwab early Wednesday morning, protesters sat down in front of the base’s gate to block construction vehicles.
“Protect the people of Okinawa, not the U.S. base,” they shouted.
“Our fight has reached a critical point,” said Hiroji Yamashiro, a 63-year-old citizens’ group leader. “Let’s beat down (the state) and win at any cost.”
Kazue Shimabukuro, 73, lost her father in the Battle of Okinawa, a fierce ground battle between Japan and the U.S.-led Allied forces in 1945 during World War II. “I don’t want our children to go through the same hardship,” she said.
“I have no doubt that Okinawa will never lose and that (the base transfer to) Henoko will be stopped,” said Shimabukuro, who has repeatedly joined the rallies at Camp Schwab with her husband.