Up to 50,000 demonstrate against U.S. ‘continued occupation’ of Okinawa

Thousands of people gathered on the Japanese island of Okinawa on Sunday in one of the biggest demonstrations in two decades against U.S. military bases following the arrest of an American suspected of murdering a local woman. The protest marks a new low for the United States and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in their relations with the island and threatens plans to have the U.S. Marines Futenma air station moved to a less populous part of the island. Protesters, which organisers expected to number more than 50,000, gathered in the prefectural capital Naha, infuriated with the United States after a former Marine employed as a civilian base worker allegedly raped and murdered a young local woman in April.

I’m filled with sadness and I really don’t want any more victims. As long as there are US military bases this kind of incident will continue to happen.

Chihiro Uchimura, 71

The demonstration, held at an athletics park under scorching heat with many in attendance shielding themselves under umbrellas, began with a moment of silence for 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro, the murder victim, and a message from her father. “Why my daughter, why was she killed,” said the message, read on his behalf. “My thoughts are the same as those of all the bereaved families that have met with suffering up to now.” A similar demonstration was being held simultaneously outside the Japanese parliament in Tokyo. Okinawa, which was under U.S. occupation until 1972, still hosts 30,000 military personnel living and working on bases that cover a fifth of the island.