Okinawa on Sunday was site of a massive protest against U.S. bases, the latest in years of demonstrations, with fresh anger fueled by the recent suspected rape and killing of a woman on the Japanese island by a former Marine.
Organizers say that 65,000 people took part in the rally in Naha, Okinawa’s capital, and theIrish Times described it as “one of the biggest demonstrations in two decades against U.S. military bases.”
The island is home to some 30,000 U.S. military personnel, the bulk of the troops the U.S. has stationed in Japan, and local residents have blamed the forces for environmental contamination and crime, including sexual assault. Last month, former U.S. Marine Kenneth Franklin Shinzato was arrested in connection with the April murder of Rina Shimabukuro.
Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, a base opponent, was at the rally, and referenced another one of the other crimes committed by U.S. military personnel—in 1995 three U.S. servicemenraped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl. “We had pledged never to repeat such an incident,” hesaid.
“I couldn’t change the political system to prevent that. That is my utmost regret as a politician and as governor of Okinawa,” he added.
Both Onaga and Aiko Shimajiri, the minister for Okinawa, have called for a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement, which restricts Japanese authorities’ abitilty to investigate some crimes by U.S. servicemen while on duty.
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