Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

My Photo
Name:
Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Resisting Washington's divide & conquer tactics in Okinawa



About 700 people came for the daily construction gate blockade yesterday (Tuesday) at the US Marine Base Camp Schwab here in Okinawa.  Usually they bring in legions of dump trucks full of big rocks and gravel three times a day but on Monday and Tuesday they only did it twice because it took so long to clear the blockades from the gates.

On Monday the gates were shut down for five hours but on Tuesday lots more Japanese police from the mainland were brought in so they were able to clear the gates after about 90 minutes during the two different blockages.

As they drag people away from the gates they put them in well-guarded pens that they create by parking police buses next to the sidewalk near the gate.  The base fence serves as another barrier and they close off each end with portable fencing and lots of police.  I got stuck in there for a couple hours once and have made sure not to fall into that fly trap again.


It seems abundantly clear to me that the Japanese police and government in Tokyo have been completely outsourced to US interests.  There can be no doubt that ‘democracy’ in Japan (and Okinawa) does not exist except in a rhetorical sense.

The amount of construction going on at Camp Schwab is massive.  Just inside the gates heavy machinery are constantly preparing the ground for new buildings – likely more barracks as the US ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific requires more facilities to house the transfer of 60% of all Pentagon forces into this region.  

So, in addition to the operations in Oura Bay to build the twin-runways on top of the water (killing coral, fish and the endangered sea mammals called Dugong) there are other construction projects everywhere there is vacant space on Camp Schwab.

I took delight several times when huge Marine Corps military vehicles were passing by us to step out in front of them and refuse to move.  The police were so busy with the gate blockades that they left me alone. I wanted the Marines in the vehicles to see my Veterans For Peace T-shirt and know that fellow Americans are also at these protests.  Some of them might easily dismiss the Okinawans for protesting but I want them to have to think about why these VFP guys are here.  Dud Hendrick joined me twice when I did this in the road.

At 5:00 pm on Tuesday as people were leaving the base I stood by the gate again wanting to have the GI’s driving off the base to see my shirt.  I got to make eye contact with quite a few Marines.  At one point a bus full of Marines with windows open pulled up trying to enter the base but they had to wait for traffic to clear so I ran out into the road and went up and down the side of the bus saying, “You work for a fucking police state.  This is not a democracy.”

I did this because by 5:00 pm I was filled with disgust and anger watching and thinking about how the Okinawan people’s demand that this new airfield not be built on top of pristine Oura Bay is totally ignored.  I felt intense rage watching as police are brought in to overwhelm people’s honest and heartfelt non-violent protests; hearing how several mayors who oppose the base have been defeated in recent elections by heavily funded and manipulated campaigns orchestrated by Tokyo and Washington; seeing the massive environmental destruction currently underway at Camp Schwab (and other bases on the island); and the general disrespect for the people.  

In that moment when I could come face-to-face with the Marines on the bus I was channeling all this pent-up emotion.  You should have seen the wide eyes of the guys on the bus.  The last thing they ever expected to see was an old guy with a VFP T-shirt and a Baltimore Orioles baseball cap in the middle of the road in Okinawa.  For me it was a priceless moment.  (One of the simple joys in the life of a peacenik.)

Today (Wednesday) there was an action in the bay with more than 100 kayaks and other boats directly confronting construction operations going on in the water.  We were taken out in a glass bottom boat owned by a man who lives by Oura Bay and for years has made his living by renting kayaks to people who want to enjoy the beauty of this sacred place.  He now has become a leader in the movement and his face carries the sad look of a man whose heart is breaking.


While on the boat we learned that in Okinawa fishing licenses are given to villages. The government went to several Oura Bay fishing communities and offered them a deal.  If the village would give up their license then the fisherman would be paid $500 a day each to sit on their boats and spy on any protest activity in the water.  In some of the small villages a majority of fisherman voted to take the money even though not all of the others agreed. This has caused widespread conflict dividing communities and even families.  If a majority of the fishermen voted to accept the money then those who voted not to do so have lost their license and their income.

These kinds of divide and conquer tactics are manipulative and evil and have no place in a truly democratic society.  But Tokyo and Washington are not interested in fostering democracy.  In fact their only interest is in dividing the people of Okinawa and creating the feeling of inevitability - that the construction of the twin-airfields on top of Oura Bay is unstoppable and thus should not be resisted.

Fortunately there are many that still maintain their deep connection to nature, justice and true democracy and continue to daily resist these crimes that are ultimately coming from the corporate oligarchies that dominate politics in Washington.

I am proud to stand and sit with these true heroes.

Bruce 

2 Comments:

Blogger Geoff Holland said...

Thank you so much to you Bruce and to Dud and to all the Okinawans and everyone putting their bodies on the line and standing up for World Peace, protecting their local environment, and resisting the evils of militarism.

4/24/18, 10:21 PM  
Blogger Lisa Savage said...

We're living vicariously through you and the others on the front lines in Okinawa. The joys of an old peacenik are delightful and the sorrow and heartbreak of the Okinawan people are felt from here. You're starting to sound a bit like these heroes and sheroes and I know you are learning a lot. Keep up the good work!

4/25/18, 4:53 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home