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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Thousands of Okinawans say they’ll gather outside this air base Easter Sunday, but they won’t be hunting for colored eggs or chocolate bunnies.

Instead, they’ll protest the war in Iraq and demand U.S. and British troops exit that country, said Hideo Asato, an Okinawa’s Peace Activity Center spokesman.

Organizers wanted to form a human chain around Kadena’s 11-mile perimeter.

But now, Asato said, a scaled-down plan calls for between 4,000 to 10,000 anti-war demonstrators to mobilize along a 2.5-mile stretch of Highway 58, a six-lane thoroughfare that runs along Kadena’s western perimeter.

Activists will perform a “die-in” — in which protesters lie on the ground as if dead, Asato said.

“We’ll pray for the Iraqi people — the victims of the war,” he added.

A concert and various other events will follow the die-in.

Kadena spokesman Charles Steitz said the base has been informed of the protest and will continue to make security a “top priority.”

Stating that it would be inappropriate to discuss base security specifics, Steitz stressed that military police “maintain excellent working relationships with … host nation law-enforcement agencies and are meeting all requirements for force protection.”

In July 2000, about 27,000 protestors joined hands and encircled Kadena to show opposition to military bases on Okinawa during the Group of Eight Summit.

At that time, the base kept its three main gates open, but increased security measures by checking all identification cards and reducing traffic to one lane, practices that have been common at Kadena since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks.

Kadena should stay open during Sunday’s protest, said Senior Master Sgt. Ronald McCarthy, superintendent of Kadena’s security operations.

Kadena has been seeing various protests nearly “every other weekend” since the war in Iraq began last month, McCarthy said.

He noted that the base has not closed any gates because of protests in more than a year.

“We won’t close down, unless we feel there is a threat,” McCarthy said.

Base security personnel typically post signs at gate exits informing people to be aware that protests are in progress, and not to interfere with the protesters, McCarthy said.

Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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