Anti-Osprey march draws 3,000 protesters

A crowd of nearly 3,000 unruly protesters marched through Okinawa streets Sunday, continuing their long-running opposition to assignment of MV-22 Osprey aircraft to the island.

While the primary objective of the demonstration was to oppose the Osprey, protesters also took the opportunity to also complain about plans to keep Futenma Marine Corps Air Station or its replacement within Okinawa.  And to add fuel to the protest fires, demonstrators were vocal in their anger about the rash of incidents involving American servicemen on Okinawa the past couple of months.

Residents and supporters were also visible at demonstrations near the Futenma Main Gate, where their chants called for removal of the controversial MV-22 Osprey aircraft and all U.S. military personnel get out of Okinawa. The Marine Corps began its Osprey training flights shortly after a dozen of the helicopter-airplane hybrids were deployed here from Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in October.

One protester recalled when a U.S. F-100 super sabre crashed near his home near Miyamori Elementary School in 1959, killing 17 people.  “An accident will certainly happen if the Ospreys continue to fly for five or 10 years,” the 70-year-old said. “Before that happens, the aircraft must be pulled out.”

Another protester, a 70-year-old resident of Urasoe, was irate about the Liberal Democratic Party taking the reins of Japanese government.  His complaint is that the LDP advocates keeping the Futenma base in the prefecture.  Demands for Futenma to be ousted from Okinawa have been decades in the making.  Okinawans continuously point out that this prefecture hosts nearly 74% of the land used for U.S. bases in Japan.

Japan’s central government continues to support the plan to transfer Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from densely populated Ginowan City to a more sparsely populated area in the Henoko district of Nago City in the island’s far north.  That plan remains in line with the agreement Japan signed with the United States several years ago.