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Protesters hold placards that read "Our anger has reached its limit" during a protest rally against the presence of U.S. military bases on the southwestern island of Okinawa. (Photo: AP)

'Our Anger Is Past Its Limit': Tens of Thousands Rally Against US Bases in Okinawa

Demonstration a reflection of years of resentment against US military footprint on island, with former Marine suspected of recent murder and rape adding fuel to fire

Andrea Germanos

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 the Irish Times described it as "one of the biggest demonstrations in two decades against U.S. military bases."

Protesters, who also oppose a plan to relocate a Marine Corps Air Station to another part of the island, held signs reading "Murderer Marines. Out of Okinawa," and "Our anger is past its limit."

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. servicemen raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl.  "We had pledged never to repeat such an incident," he said

"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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