Anti-war protests expected in Japan
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — More than 10,000 people are expected to protest a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq this weekend in cities throughout Japan and at some U.S. military installations.
The demonstrations will coincide with anti-war rallies in the United States and more than 25 other countries.
About 80 people are expected to stage an anti-war protest outside Yokota Air Base on Saturday morning, according to a petition organizers submitted to the Japanese National Police.
Base officials anticipate a peaceful demonstration.
“No weapons are involved. There’s just chanting,” said Maj. John Quattrone, commander of Yokota’s 374th Security Forces Squadron.
The organizers, in their petition, said they will gather at Fussa Park, about 500 yards from the supply gate, at 9:30 a.m., said 2nd Lt. Thomas Wenz, a Yokota spokesman.
Shortly thereafter, they will head for the supply gate, then march south on the sidewalk along Route 16 to the Fussa gate, before turning west toward the Fussa train station. The march is set to end in Higashi-cho Park.
“According to the group’s documents, the protest is directed towards U.S. military action against Iraq,” Wenz said. “It’s not a direct protest against Yokota Air Base.”
Organizations, by law, must file a petition with Japanese police before demonstrating in public. Base officials said they did not know which group is leading Saturday’s protest near Yokota.
Japanese riot police are accompanying the protesters’ march, Quattrone said.
The base, meanwhile, will have Security Forces personnel and at least one canine and confrontational management team on standby.
The Office of Special Investigations sent an official e-mail to all Yokota military members earlier in the week announcing Saturday’s protest and advising people to avoid the area or travel in groups.
“They do this any time there’s a scheduled rally in Japan, not just at Yokota,” Wenz said.
Quattrone said Saturday’s protest is the largest near Yokota since Sept. 11.
Demonstrations have been more common recently at Yokosuka Naval Base, where hundreds of anti-war demonstrators are expected to gather Sunday at 1 p.m. in Verny Park, just outside the main base gates.
Protest organizers say they plan to march in front of both the U.S. Navy base and the neighboring Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces base.
In mid-December, the carrier USS Kitty Hawk’s return sparked a series of local anti-war protests. On at least two occasions, protesters forced the closure of the front gate, stalling rush hour traffic for hours.
Base officials are reminding all U.S. personnel, whether military or civilian, to avoid the protests.
The largest anti-war rally is expected Saturday in Tokyo, where more than 30 Japanese nongovernmental organizations will stage a demonstration dubbed “No More War! No Attack on Iraq.”
Organizers say about 10,000 people will hold a “peace parade” through the Ginza district and a concert at Hibiya Park. The participating NGOs include Amnesty International Japan, the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, Greenpeace Japan and Peace Boat.
— Joe Giordono and Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.