Latest U.S. troop incident mobilizes activists

by Eric Johnston

OSAKA — Protests in Okinawa over the arrest of a U.S. Marine for the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl continued Tuesday with demonstrations outside U.S. military bases.

Okinawa police arrested 38-year-old Tyrone Hadnott, a U.S. Marine, on Monday on suspicion of raping the girl the day before. Hadnott denies the charge.

Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, a local nongovernmental organization, sent a letter of protest to the U.S. government Monday calling for an official apology and compensation for the girl, and to punish the serviceman responsible. The group also demanded all U.S. bases be closed.

“Can we allow the U.S. military to interfere in the lives of Okinawans? Why are we not making a safe environment for Okinawan women a priority?” asked Suzuyo Takazato, the group’s cochair.

Some antibase activists worried that once the initial anger has subsided, people will forget about the incident until another comes along.

“Okinawans bear some responsibility for the alleged rape because of their ultimate indifference to the bases. Yes, they cried and publicly protested after a 12-year-old schoolgirl was raped in Okinawa in 1995, and often say they oppose the bases,” said antibase activist Natsume Taira.

“But that was a media performance. Unless they get serious about opposing the bases, this incident will be forgotten and there will be similar incidents in the future,” he said.

Taira has been camped out on a beach in northern Okinawa near Henoko for 1,395 days in protest of a planned move by the U.S. Marines at Futenma to a replacement facility beside his campsite.