NAHA, Okinawa Pref. – An ethnic slur hurled by a riot police officer at a group of anti-base protesters in Okinawa has sparked a bitter exchange between the governor of the prefecture and his counterpart in Osaka, from where the officer was dispatched.
Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga told a news conference that Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui “lacked consideration for the Okinawan people,” after Matsui expressed appreciation for the work of his police officers on Wednesday, a day after one of them called the protesters dojin, a Japanese word meaning aboriginal that carries derogatory connotations.
Matsui said Thursday the demonstrations were “far too radical” and defended the officer in question.
The Osaka policeman in his 20s had been dispatched to the U.S. military training site in northern Okinawa to respond to protests against helipads being constructed there. As he confronted the protesters on Tuesday, the officer said to several of them, “What do you think you are grabbing, you idiots? You dojin.”
Following reports of the incident, Matsui tweeted late Wednesday, “Although the expression may have been inappropriate, I could tell that the police officer was working hard to perform his duty.”
While noting Matsui’s post was too short to give an understanding of his true intent, Onaga said it would raise questions among Okinawa residents if he meant to encourage the officer.
Matsui told reporters in Osaka the expression used by the officer was inappropriate and he should reflect on it, but added people make mistakes in the field.
“Police officers are dispatched to prevent unnecessary confrontation,” he said, adding people should take note of “which side is causing the disorder.”
Regarding the officer’s remark, National Police Agency chief Masayoshi Sakaguchi said it was “inappropriate” and “extremely regrettable.”
“In addition to ensuring no such remarks would be made, we will instruct officers to keep guard appropriately,” said Sakaguchi.
The Osaka police are considering reprimanding the officer after hearing his side of the incident.
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