OKINAWA (TR) – Citizens protesting the presence of U.S. military at a helipad construction site here on Thursday were tied up by police officers who allegedly laughed as they intimidated the participants.
A group of some 20 citizens said police started tying them up when they were holding a protest on a 10-meter high slope of a logging site near a helipad construction yard on U.S. military training grounds in Takae, Higashi, the Okinawa Times reports (September 29). During the incident, some officers reportedly laughed as they threatened “to strangle” the participants.
“To handle it this way is a first,” angered protesters told the newspaper. “This is unforgivable.”
A woman who took part in the protest said that she complained because she felt she was going to be strangled. “But they just said ‘you’re still talking so you’re fine,’” she said. “How awful.”
A 50-year-old man who suffered a sprained ankle when he was being restrained said he “asked them to call an ambulance but they didn’t respond.”
“How could there be such violent ways in a dangerous place like this,” the man said, who also smashed his hips into a tree stump because a police officer tripped while he was being hauled up. “Police are supposed to be protecting the people.”
The Okinawa Prefectural Police Headquarters was not informed of the incident until Thursday night, and prompted some bewildered senior officials to say, “Did they really do that?”
“Arrests can’t be made within military grounds without consent from the U.S. side,” a senior police official said. “Tying them up with rope could essentially be construed as arresting them.”
Some pointed out the “complex nature” of the level of authority that prefectural police can exercise in restraining citizens, given the long contentious issue of U.S. military presence in Okinawa.
Yukito Oguchi, a lawyer representing the protesters, told the Okinawa Times that “using rope for restraint constitutes a dangerous act to constrain freedom of the body, and would count as arrest or imprisonment under normal circumstances.”
“Police may claim it’s ‘security measures,’ but there are no laws in place that directly allow such acts,” Oguchi said. “They could be charged with abuse of civil service authority.”