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Activists fail in bid to encircle Kadena Air Base

Date Posted: 2007-05-18

A protest against American forces on Okinawa failed Sunday when demonstrators failed to muster enough support to form a human chain around the sprawling Kadena Air Base.

Organizers claim they had 15,000 supporters gathered for the afternoon rally, when they planned to join hands and form a circle around the 17-kilometer circumference air base, but still had seven large gaps in their ranks when they gave up. Officials say there were far fewer than the number of activists claimed at the human chain event, noting there were even fewer Sunday than at a similar rally seven years ago. That protest garnered a turnout of fewer than 10,000.

The Kadena Air Base Surround Action Committee attracted ten groups, including workers union groups, peace activists, and the Socialist Party. They began encircling the air base at 3:15 p.m., but gave up about 40 minutes later after seven breaks in the chain remained and demonstrators began walking away. Executive Committee Chairman Tsuguyuki Sakiyama says “it appeared to people our power wasn’t enough”.

The bulk of the protest leadership wasn’t Okinawan. Most were imported from the mainland, with the largest groups being an 11-man contingent of lawyers from Osaka Lawyers Group, 21 workers union groups, and others from the Hokkaido area. They lamented their failure, criticizing Okinawans because “now, young people don’t know about war and they are not interested in this action.”

The 60-year-old Sakiyama said he was driving the human chain action at Kadena so “children learn about war, and about peace by experience with their own eyes and bodies.” He criticized the central government for its efforts to revise the Japanese Constitution, saying “we have to show by action we are against the bill.”

Sakiyama said Kadena was the perfect target for demonstrations because “this Kadena is everyone’s focus. It has the PAC-3 missiles and the F-22 fighter planes. Kadena Air Base must be on the Okinawan bases reduction plan.”

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