Japanese faction plans protest at Atsugi, Zama
About 100 members of a reportedly “radical” Japanese group called Zengakuren are to deliver a protest letter to Camp Zama officials Saturday against the long-rumored relocation here of the U.S. Army’s I Corps headquarters from Fort Lewis, Wash.
After taking part in a 12:30 p.m. rally at Yamato Park near Naval Air Facility Atsugi against expansion of the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance and the continued presence of U.S. forces here, the group plans to take the train to Zama about an hour later and approach Gate No. 1, said Ed Roper, a U.S. Army Garrison Japan spokesman.
“They’re going to hold their red flags and signs and chant slogans, but they haven’t submitted any requests for a demonstration permit, so it’ll be illegal to demonstrate,” he said Thursday. “They’ll be warned by Japanese police and then give our gate guards a protest letter. Hopefully, everything will be peaceful.”
The release in October of an interim report on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan has prompted numerous demonstrations at military installations across the country.
Following the announcement, a senior Defense Department official told Stars and Stripes that an I Corps shift to Camp Zama is included in the restructuring plan and would affect about 3,000 personnel. But a U.S. Army Japan spokeswoman and Japanese leaders stated that no specific unit was identified in the bilateral document.
Several proposals remain under consideration and implementation schedules won’t be ready until March, officials from both sides have said.
Roper said the organization tied to Saturday’s event is not affiliated with any of the cities surrounding Camp Zama.
“Most of them are radical university students who have their own ideas and want to express that,” he added.
According to a notice sent out by the Camp Zama Provost Marshal’s Office on Thursday, Zengakuren is a faction of Kakamaru-ha, which has been linked to violence in the past.
Officials said they anticipate calm Saturday but Japanese authorities will station about 20 riot police and a bus in front of Camp Zama’s Gate No. 2 during the protest, the notice said.