Photo/IllutrationRiot police remove protesters from the front of Camp Schwab in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. (Kazuyuki Ito)

  • Photo/Illustraion

NAGO, Okinawa Prefecture--Riot police forcibly removed dozens of activists staging a sit-in to protest offshore construction work for a new U.S. military base here.

Prefectural police grabbed protesters by their arms and legs Nov. 20 to break up the demonstration in front of Camp Schwab, a U.S. Marine Corps facility, in the city’s Henoko district.

The activists resumed the sit-ins on Nov. 1 to thwart work to build a replacement facility for the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, now situated in Ginowan, also in Okinawa Prefecture.

Construction work restarted on Nov. 1 after being suspended since late August. Riot police have been removing them on a near-daily basis since Nov. 15, when construction materials began arriving at the site.

On Nov. 20, 50 or so mainly elderly people had gathered on a 1-meter-wide walkway near the gate to the construction site along a roughly 4-meter-high barrier set up by the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

The activists were hauled away, many still shouting, “No construction of a new base.”

While the protesters were kept out of the way, more than 100 dump trucks and construction vehicles entered the gate by around noon.

Suzuyo Takazato, a leading member of the Okinawa peace citizens liaison association, said the authorities are not allowed to proceed with construction work because it ignores residents' opinions manifested in a recent gubernatorial election.

“Moreover, riot police should treat protesters as human beings,” she said.

In August, the Okinawa prefectural government revoked an earlier approval for the reclamation project, which brought construction work to a halt.

However, Keiichi Ishii, the minster of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, on Oct. 30 imposed an injunction on that revocation, allowing reclamation work to resume Nov. 1.