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Marchers form human chain around Futenma

Date Posted: 2004-05-20

Opponents of the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station surrounded the base on Sunday, demanding that it be closed.

Some 16,000 protesters staged the march, according to organizers. They rallied at two northern points and one in the south on Friday, then walking to the protest site. They came from peace movement groups, labor unions and citizens wanting U.S. forces to leave.

They gathered around the 11.5 kilometers of Futenma boundaries, holding hands, doing the wave, and singing together.

This is the third time the activists have marched on the Marine Corps air base. Similar rallies were held in 1995 and again in 1998. The same groups have also staged marches on Kadena Air Base three times in the past.

They are demanding immediate return of MCAS Futenma, a radical review of the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, increased environmental concerns and cleanup when lands are returned to Japanese landowners, and compensation to landowners, and employment opportunities for the Japan Base Employees.

The human chain was formed twice during the afternoon, after organizers failed in their first attempt. After the event, organizers said they were happy with the results.

Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha, who won office in a campaign against the American base, said he hopes Japanese and American governments will recognize the success, and recognize the peoples’ will. He is asking for action this summer.

Iha also is pressing for changes in flight operations for the present, citing high noise levels. He’s demanding restrictions on night flights, as well as flights over populated residential areas.

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