On Sunday, tens of thousands of protestors gathered on the Japanese island of Okinawa calling for the closure of U.S. bases near the island, following a case where a former Marine who became a U.S. base worker, allegedly raped and murdered a 20 year-old woman.
It was estimated that more than 50,000 protestors gathered at Naha, the capital of Okinawa. This comes amidst longstanding opposition for U.S. bases in the region, which is a crucial part of the U.S.-Japan security alliance.
The protestors rallied at an outdoor sports stadium in extremely hot conditions. The protestors held signs reading “Marines, Withdraw” and “Our anger has reached the limit.” They had a moment of silence for the murder victim, Rina Shimabukuro and a message from her father at the start of the rally.
“Why my daughter, why was she killed,” said the message. “My thoughts are the same as those of all the bereaved families that have met with suffering up to now.”
Thousands of people also rallied outside Japan’s parliament building in Tokyo.
“I hereby express my unflagging resolve to push for drastic review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement and withdrawal of Marines (from Okinawa),” Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, an opponent of U.S. military presence in Okinawa, told protesters.
The United States and Japan are negotiating a deal that would move Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of central Okinawa and to pristine waters off the northern coast. Protestors and Onaga want the base removed from the island completely.
The plan to move the base was initiated after three United States Military personnel were convicted of raping a 12 year-old Okinawa girl in 1995. Tens of thousands of protestors rallied following the rape of the local girl. Negotiations between the United States and Japan went underway to reduce U.S. military presence in Okinawa.
More than 25,000 U.S. troops are stationed at Okinawa, which is considered to be the linchpin supporting the U.S.-Japan alliance in the Asia-Pacific region. Many residents have complained about crimes and protested against U.S. military presence in the region in the past.
U.S. officials have imposed restrictions on the base such as an off-base alcohol consumption ban after a U.S. Sailor crashed into two cars while driving the wrong way on a highway, injuring two people.