Statement: Cambridge, Ma. City Council

Joseph Gerson, December 21, 2015


2015年12月21日 ジョゼフ・ガーソン


My name is Joseph Gerson. I am Director of Programs for the American Friends Service Committee’s Northeast Region. AFSC is a Quaker-based organization and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.  Our New England, now Northeast, Regional Office has been in Cambridge since 1927.

I speak this evening on behalf of a number of Cambridge peace, justice and environmental activists. We want to thank Councilman Mazen for introducing the resolution four support of the Okinawan people.




About 30 years ago, Mayor Velucci welcomed the mayor and his delegation from Zushi, a Tokyo suburb. They were opposed to the destruction of their community forest for the expansion an already massive naval base. Al presented them with a resolution supporting their campaign, but before letting them leave, he insisted they join him in singing Santa Lucia. Amazingly, they knew it, and sang it with joy in the hallway outside this room.



Friends, years ago, after we prevented Boston Harbor from being transformed into a nuclear weapons base, with all of its attendant dangers, I was invited to speak in Hiroshima. There, I was shocked to learn that 40 years after the end of the Pacific War, the U.S. still had more than 100 military bases and installations across Japan. Three-fourths of the more than 40,000 U.S. troops then and now were concentrated in Okinawa, a once an independent kingdom which, in part due to  Japanese and U.S. racism – has long been colonized and exploited by governments in Tokyo and Washington.



I have since traveled to and worked with people in Okinawa since 1985, and with others in Cambridge, and we have hosted Okinawans and others from Japan many times here.

I ask you to recall that our Declaration of Independence decried the “abuses and usurpations” that King George III’s “standing armies” committed when they were here amongst us in times of peace. Okinawans are nonviolently and politically resisting the 21st century versions of these abuses and usurpations.  Since 1945, Okinawa has been a functional U.S. military colony, serving disastrous U.S. wars from Vietnam to Iraq,. More than 20% of the island remains occupied by U.S. military bases. It’s people suffer seizure of their lands, environmental destruction – including by Agent Orange, military accidents that have killed Okinawan civilians and include the loss a hydrogen bomb, crimes including rape and sexual harassment, and the near-constant terrifying blasts of night-landing exercises and low-altitude flights that make life almost unbearable.




Okinawans have engaged in countless demonstrations, rallies – one 85,000 strong – and have engaged in many civil disobedience actions. And, the have reelected the anti-base Mayor Inamine in Okinawa’s second largest city, where the massive new Heneko base is to be built. They have repeatedly elected anti-base governors and prefectural (state) assembly.

沖縄県民は無数のデモ、集会 ― 85000人が集まった ―をおこない、市民的不服従の行動をおこなっています。巨大な辺野古新基地を計画している沖縄第二の都市で基地反対の稲嶺市長を再選しました。くり返し基地に反対する知事と県議会を選出してきました。


Council members, both of my children went to the Graham-Parks elementary school, and we were privileged to meet Rosa Parks at the school’s dedication.  Just like Rosa, Okinawans are struggling end to end decades of oppression, and they are working for justice and peace. They are doing it with the same courage and t nonviolent commitment that Rosa had.  By adopting this resolution, you will honor our history and traditions, and you will send a powerful message of solidarity that will encourage people in need. You will also be reinforcing a message sent to Okinawa by our friends on the Berkeley, California city council.



While I have the floor, let me add my support to the call for replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Rights Day.  My grandson is in part Taino Indian, and he has a right to learn and to be encouraged history I all of its fullness. The concerns of Italian and others who immigrated here can certainly be honored in other ways. I also want to support those who have spoken for the rights of the homeless, for affordable housing and for a livable wage.

Thank you.



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