January 6, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
On January 5 citizens gathered in front of the gates to Camp Schwab to protest construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility in Henoko. Customarily, on the first Saturday of the New Year Okinawans come together for a large protest action there. This year about 1000 people participated and renewed their resoution to stop construction of the new base. Participants held a video call with Robert Kajihara, a 32-year-old 4th-generation Okinawan-American living in Hawaii who created a petition calling for US President Trump to suspend land reclamation work until the prefectural referendum is held in February. Together, Kajihara and the protesters pledged their continued efforts against construction in Henoko.
Kajihara greeted those gathered with the Uchinaguchi word “Haisai,” and was moved to tears upon seeing the sit-in protestors. On the video call, Kajihara and 53-year-old 4th-generation Okinawan-American Eric Wada thanked the protestors from the heart for protecting Okinawa’s ocean and human rights.
Those listening burst into applause at these words from Kajihara, “To me each one of you is a hero, as you have encouraged me to conduct a signature gathering campaign. Now there will surely be a response from the president.”
Okinawa Peace Movement Center Chairman Hiroji Yamashiro spoke emphatically: “Let’s make a spreading display of Uchinanchu solidarity throughout the world. Okinawans will not give up.”
First-year graduate student Reona Nishinaga of Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts, who drafted up leaflets for signature collecting, said, “Even without going to the gate there are things that can be done over the internet and in other ways. I hope to collect [signatures from] 200,000 people.”
January 7 is the deadline for the petition to reach 100,000 signatures. As of January 5 at 4:30 p.m. the petition had collected 177,291 signatures.
On January 7 Kajihara joined with others to rally in front of the White House. In solidarity, on January 8 starting at 4:00 p.m. Okinawans rallied at the Ishinda gate to Camp Foster. Although land reclamation work in the ocean continued, no construction vehicles hauling materials were spotted outside the gate.
(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)