Protesters at Yokosuka rally against U.S. plans
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Sunday’s wasn’t a single-issue protest.
The estimated 2,000 people rallying outside Yokosuka’s Daiei Mall on Sunday afternoon brought a list of concerns ranging from nuclear aircraft carriers to noise pollution.
The primary concern was the U.S. Navy’s plan to include a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as part of the forward-deployed forces at Yokosuka Naval Base. The USS Kitty Hawk is scheduled for decommissioning in 2008 and will be replaced by a Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered ship.
“When nothing is happening, that’s OK. But I’m worried about when something happens — such as terrorism — and the carrier is attacked, and [the attack] causes accidents such as a nuclear reactor explosion,” said Hideto Sugiyama, a Yokosuka city worker and a member of the city’s labor union.
Protesters from 21 organizations and local residents marched together along Route 16 from Verny Park, outside of the base’s main gate to Yokosuka Chuo station. They stopped in front of the base gate along the way, shouting, “We are against home-porting of a nuclear carrier to Yokosuka,” “Withdraw home-porting of Kitty Hawk,” “We are against relocation of I Corps Headquarters to Camp Zama,” and “We are against strengthening U.S. bases due to realigning U.S. forces.”
Recent announcements on the partial relocation of the air wing from Naval Air Facility Atsugi to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, the Kitty Hawk replacement and persistent rumors of an increased military presence in Camp Zama formed the basis of the remarks.
Several Americans watched the protest from the sidelines.
Seaman Andrew Hale has seen Yokosuka protests before and doesn’t appreciate them.
“They are very polite, but they (the protesters) don’t seem to realize what we’re doing for them,” Hale said.
Former Navy Lt. Susan Murphy was concerned that some of the protesters seemed misinformed, but she wasn’t bothered by their presence.
“I think it’s fine to feel that way, but I hope they know what they’re protesting,” Murphy said. “I saw one of the signs had the nuclear symbol on an aircraft carrier. Yes, they are nuclear-propelled, but that’s a really small part of what the ship is about.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Vaughn witnessed worse anti-US military sentiment in Italy, he said.
“It’s a free country” Vaughn said, with a shrug. “People should be able to express how they feel.”
People are expressing their concern in written form, said Masahiko Goto, leader of the Citizens Coalition Concerning Home-Porting of a Nuclear-Powered Carrier to Yokosuka Naval Base.
The citizen’s group collected 350,000 signatures since spring 2004 on a petition opposing a nuclear-powered carrier. The group plans to present it to the Kanagawa governor Wednesday and take their worries to Washington in December.
Daisuke Horiuchi wants the U.S. military to leave Japan once and for all.
A member of the Citizens Movement for Declaration of Denuclearization, Yokosuka, and a band called Yorozu Peace Band, Horiuchi has protested against U.S. bases for more than 15 years, he said. The band plays during their monthly protest because they are “tired of chanting.”
“I simply want a tool for war to go away,” Horiuchi said.