Tomigusuku mayor wants to change June 19 demo site
Tomigusuku Mayor Haruki Gibo has requested to All-Okinawa Council, the organizer of the planned Jun. 19 large-scale demonstration against the U.S. military presence in Okinawa, to change the planned venue of the rally from Onoyama Athletic Field in Naha.
The Jun. 19th demonstration is organized specifically to protest the recent rape and murder of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro by a civilian U.S. base contractor worker, DUIs and other offenses by U.S. military members and civilians.
Gibo called the council and wanted the demonstration moved to another location because games of the Okinawa Prefectural High School Baseball Championship Tournament are in full swing on the same day as the demonstration on June 19th. The tournament takes place at the Okinawa Cellular Stadium Naha that is located in the same Onoyama park as the athletic field, the planned venue of the demonstration.
Gibo explained to the council that young baseball players on Okinawa admire the Okinawa Cellular Stadium Naha as a sacred ground. “The sacred ground not only has a traditional meaning of ‘baseball dream’ to young players but also gives them guts and spirits of Okinawa that cheers the players to aim winning the championship at the Japanese National High School Baseball Tournament held on the Koshien Stadium in Kobe, mainland Japan, every summer,” Gibo said.
Gibo insists that, because of the location of the demonstration, the Okinawa Prefectural High School Baseball Federation had to consider postponing the tournament or changing the venue for three games planned for Jun. 19. “This would be necessary in order to avoid confusion that would potentially lead to unsafe circumstances, particularly to those young players and their families visiting the tournament,” Gibo said.
He added that, “Playing at the Okinawa Cellular Stadium Naha is a dream of all the players. Moreover, this year is the last chance for 12th grade players to vie for the championship and the trip to Koshien.” Gibo stressed that his request was based on his consideration particularly towards those 12th grade players and their last experience on the sacred ground.
Gibo stressed the importance of prioritizing the dream of young players before a “political demonstration,” and offered the use of Tomigusuku Seaside Park to the council as an alternative location for the demonstration.
However, the office manager of All-Okinawa Council, Hiroshi Inafuku, responded to Gibo in an interview with Okinawa Times newspaper. “The Okinawa Prefectural High School Baseball Federation already has indicated their understanding and agreed with our intention and the importance of holding the demonstration. Mayor Gibo claims that we hold the demonstration just for political reasons, but he is wrong. We will do this demonstration to show all Okinawa citizens’ anger against the U.S. military,” Inafuku said in the interview.
A spokesman for the Okinawa Prefectural High School Baseball Federation said, “The demonstration won’t affect the game schedule, and the council’s demonstration won’t have an impact on the players, either. Everything will go on as planned.”