‘We Won’t Quit Until We Stop It’

‘We Won’t Quit Until We Stop It’ 1

Naha, Okinawa –Every day, except on weekends, holidays and typhoon days, charter buses depart from Naha and other cities on this island to transport protesters to three locations in the north where the Japanese government is trying to build a super air force base for the US island Marines.

One place is Shirakawa on the Pacific side of the island where the government’s Okinawa Defense Bureau tears down a mountain and loads it into dump trucks. There demonstrators delay their work by standing in front of the trucks. The second location is the nearby Awa Pier, where the mountain debris is loaded onto small cargo ships. There protesters are reducing the number of trucks entering the area to one per green light by walking around the pavement by the gate where there is a traffic light. This reduces the number of ships that depart each day. In the water, the ships are further decelerated by a brave fleet of sea kayakers who crowd around the bow of each ship until they are towed away. As soon as they are free of the kayakers, the ships sail to the East China Sea side of the island, to Cape Henoko, the location of the US Marines’ Camp Schwab, and throw the dirt into the sea as a landfill to support the planned runway over the Cape and protrude into the sea on both sides and cause an ecological catastrophe in the coral garden. Another team of kayakers meets them and delays the process even more.

The third destination for charter buses is the inland gate of Camp Schwab, where a daily sit-in slows the huge fleets of trucks – cement trucks, trucks with building materials, and dump trucks with more debris from nearby locations – that drive into the construction site Form of three convoys with 200-300 vehicles per day, even during the pandemic.

Okinawa was a peaceful independent kingdom until Japan conquered it in the same historical era that the US conquered Puerto Rico. Legally, Okinawans are Japanese; Culturally, they are a colonized indigenous people. They occupy 0.6 percent of Japanese territory and are bogged down with more than 70 percent of U.S. military facilities in Japan, a situation they call structural discrimination. Okinawan Conservatives and Progressives agree against building another base.

Most of the protesters are retired. It makes sense. Direct measures aimed at construction must be carried out during working hours. People who live on retirement income don’t have to worry about being laid off. Additionally, most of these people remember the Battle of Okinawa or the devastation that followed and see this as their last chance to translate their hatred of war into the form of a concrete achievement. When asked why they believe they can win against the combined strength of the US and Japanese governments, their firm answer is, “Because we won’t stop until we do.”


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