Hiroji Yamashiro, the chairman of the Okinawa Heiwa Undou (peace movement) Center, and one other man were recently arrested in front of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab gate in the Henoko district, Nago, while protesting the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, under suspicion of violating the Act on Special Measures Concerning Criminal Cases, and were sent to appear before a prosecutor. On Feb. 22, the day of their arrest, a general assembly of prefectural citizens was being held at the gate to protest the base relocation. The U.S. military arrested Mr. Yamashiro before the event even began, and kept him confined for many hours. How could this be construed as anything but an attempt to suppress dissent?
First of all, it’s hardly as if Mr. Yamashiro was attempting to infiltrate the compound. He was trying to minimize friction between prefectural police and the protesters. Moreover, rather than standing by the guard post at the gate, he was only standing by a yellow line near the highway demarcating the boundary of the compound. Suddenly, U.S. military guards knocked Mr. Yamashiro down, grabbed him by the feet and carried him inside the base to be restrained. Are we supposed to find this kind of violence acceptable?
The Marine Corps in Okinawa is explaining this behavior as a “Japanese-national guard who ‘apprehended’ individuals who attempted to infiltrate a USMC compound.” The guard’s arrest was a citizen’s arrest. The Criminal Procedure Code allows anyone, not just law enforcement personnel, to make an arrest if the citizen is a witness to a crime.
At the scene, there were approximately 30 police officers. Usually in the event of a citizen’s arrest, the suspect is held until the police arrive, but in this case there was already a crowd of officers. He should have been released immediately.
Despite this, instead of delivering Mr. Yamashiro and the other man to the police, the guards dragged them in the opposite direction — inside the base. They were handcuffed behind their backs, and although supposedly the handcuffs were removed inside the base, the men were still detained for about four hours. This has nothing to do with the Act on Special Measures; this is an oppression of human rights.
In 1957, on Ie Island under U.S. administration, there was an incident in which five citizens were arrested for entering an aircraft target range that had been forcibly confiscated. United States soldiers put up a wooden sign behind the five individuals secretly, and used this as evidence to unjustly arrest them for trespassing. How is this case any different?
It’s time to recall the multitude of human rights violations at the hands of the U.S. military the last time we were under their rule, before it happens again. We cannot allow ourselves to return to the dark era during the years following World War II. Mr. Yamashiro and the other man were released on the night of Feb. 23. From a legal standpoint, he never should have been arrested or arraigned at all. Opposition to the relocation of the base to Henoko is the will of the people. We shouldn’t tolerate the U.S. military even laying a finger on any of our citizens engaged in protest.