Thousands of people held protests over the weekend in front of a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa, Japan in response to the rape and killing of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro by an American former sailor.
Roughly 2,000 people attended the protest organized by dozens of women's rights groups based on the island, where more than two-thirds of U.S. bases in Japan are located. They rallied outside the front gates of the Marine Corps headquarters at Camp Foster, holding signs that read, "Never forgive Marine's rape," "Killer go home," and "Withdraw all U.S. forces from Okinawa."
Suzuyo Takazato, a representative of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, told Stars and Stripes that the rally was organized to mourn Shimabukuro and to renew the long-held demand to remove all military bases from Okinawa. The protest comes just ahead of President Barack Obama's scheduled trip to Japan to attend a summit and visit Hiroshima on Friday.
"This incident is a prime example of the violent nature of the military," Takazato said. "This incident reminds us that it can happen to any women on Okinawa, us, our daughters, or granddaughters. Reducing the presence of the military is not good enough. All the military bases must go."
Residents of the island have long said the bases bring crime and pollution. The protest on Sunday was held just days after the former Marine, who now works as a civilian employee on Kadena Air Base, confessed to raping and killing Shimabukuro, who went missing in April.
"I am so sad and just cannot take it anymore," one protester, Yoko Zamami, told Stars and Stripes. "We, Okinawan people’s human rights have been taken so lightly in the past and still today. How many times is enough to voice our protest?"
Another activist supporting the protests, Catherine Jane Fisher, told RT, "We need to start from the beginning and educate people, including the police, medical professionals, judges, government officials....each time it happens, the U.S. military and the Japanese government say 'we will make sure this would never happen again,' but it just keeps on happening."