I finished the banner (in photo above) just in time for my trip to Okinawa with the Veterans For Peace solidarity delegation. The banner is acrylic on canvas, 102" x 36". And the trip...what a trip it was!
The trip was a sort of whirlwind. We went to Okinawa to be in solidarity with the vast majority of Okinawan people who are opposed to the militarization of their island that has occurred as a result of the occupation of Okinawa by the US military and its 32 facilities that are used exclusively by the US. Okinawa accounts for only 0.6 % of the land of Japan, but 74 % of US military bases in Japan are on Okinawa! Many of these bases, including the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station and the Kadena Air Force base are located in heavily populated areas...As you can see in the photo above, Futenma is right smack in the middle of crowded Ginowan City, surrounded by apartments, private homes, daycare centers, schools, a college, and hospitals. The people are forced to hear the very loud noise of aircraft taking off and landing over 50 times a day, explosions from explosive ordinance disposal, live-firing drills and other training exercises. They have also been subjected, over the years, to numerous accidents involving US aircraft, some of which have resulted in injuries and deaths of Okinawans. Both of these bases violate US aviation regulations, as they lack required clear zones. The US military could never get away with doing to the American people what it has been doing to the people of Okinawa since WWII!
A few days before our visit to Okinawa, a part fell from a US Osprey helicopter and landed on this roof, denting it where Miho, one of the delegation, is pointing. It is the roof of a daycare center, and it fell when children were playing in the yard only a few feet away. While we were there, a door frame from another US helicopter fell into another school yard, again missing playing children by only feet!
And then there are the rapes and murders committed upon the Okinawan people by members of the US military. There have been many such incidents, which very understandably, further infuriates the people and makes them more determined to rid themselves of the US military presence. Here, the VFP delegation, along with our local guides, visits a memorial set up for Rine Shimabakuro, a 20 year old woman, who a year and a half ago was abducted, raped, and then murdered by a former US marine. He dumped her body in the woods near where this memorial now stands. Needless to say, the place held a lot of sadness.
Here is the banner, finally seeing some action in front of the gate of Camp Schwab, a US Marine Corps base. Camp Schwab, which sits next to Oura Bay, is where the US and Japanese government have long wanted to relocate the extremely dangerous Futenma Air Station. To do this, they plan on building twin airstrips, each over a mile long, but that will necessitate filling in part of beautiful Oura Bay, home to the extremely endangered marine mammal, the Okinawan dugong (thought to be only 2 remaining!!!) and 261 other endangered species! But there has been ongoing resistance for many years in the form of lawsuits, demonstrations, and civil disobedience. On December 26th, just a week following the delegation's visit, that resistance reached 5,000 days, or over 13 1/2 years of daily, ongoing resistance!
Back to the Camp Schwab gate.....Several vehicles (not sure what they are called) loaded with marines come face to face with the VFP delegation, standing and blocking their way.
Police move in...
...and we all sit down blocking the road. Here, the police start trying to drag some of us away.
Alas, the police have hauled away enough of us that the vehicles can now pass.
A little later, we join those sitting down in front of another gate, ready to block the construction vehicles that are coming (illegally) to continue filling in the waters of Oura Bay.
Filling in those waters will doom the Okinawan dugong (pictured here in paper mache) to extinction. That the American and Japanese governments are fine with that outcome makes me disgusted and incredibly angry!
And again, the police move in to remove those blocking the gate.
The VFP delegation has now been hauled away and the police start removing the locals and their many other supporters.
After being carried away by the police, we are left in a "holding cell" made of fencing and many police.
But a plan is hatched. Some of us attempt to escape the holding cell...making enough of a distraction that others are able to successfully jump the fence and avoid the police long enough....
...to very quickly position themselves in front of the first vehicle in a long line of construction vehicles waiting to gain entrance to the base.
Others are caught by the police before they can make it...but these folks did it! Note Miles, who managed to slide underneath the truck!
One by one, the police haul the truck-blockers away. Here Mike is giving them a wee bit of a difficult time.
After all are removed, the long line of Bay-filling construction vehicles start rolling.
But the resistance continues, and will not give up...We'll see what happens, but I am praying that those twin airstrips will never be built, and that the dugong, and all those other endangered creatures might still someday recover, and then thrive.
Save the Dugong and Oura Bay! No Base! US out of Okinawa!!!