Angry Okinawans rally at Kadena Air Base following ex-marine’s arrest

JIJI

Following the arrest in Okinawa Prefecture of a former U.S. Marine accused of abandoning a woman’s body, angry residents rallied on Friday in front of U.S. Kadena Air Base, where he works.

About 250 people shouted slogans including “Get out of Okinawa” and “We don’t accept U.S. bases.”

“Many people in the prefecture were worried and wished that she would come home safely,” said Shusei Arakawa, 79, one of the organizers.

On Thursday, police arrested civilian Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 32, after the body of Rina Shimabukuro, 20, missing since last month, was found in a location he suggested.

“I haven’t been able to handle this sorrow since last night,” said Yoshiharu Kamiya, a 73-year-old resident of Ginowan, which hosts U.S. Marine Corps Air Base Futenma. “It is the ultimate human rights violation.”

Kamiya said he participated in a landmark Okinawa rally in 1996 after the rape of a local girl by three U.S. servicemen.

“How many times do we have to hold such rallies?” Kamiya asked in an angry voice. “The government tries to control our protests, but we won’t stop.”

Housewife Masako Yoshinaga, 68, said that although the U.S. side has always promised to strengthen discipline following criminal cases involving its servicemen or other personnel, this has “lacked substance.”

Yoshinaga, who has six grandchildren, said, “For the future of our kids, I want to express my will in this rally.”

On Friday, the victim’s family members said in a statement issued through the prefectural police that they were lost for words and called on the media to leave them in peace.

Meanwhile, 16 civil groups in Okinawa said the same day that they will jointly send written demands to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the Japanese government asking that all military bases and units be removed from the island prefecture.

“I’m speechless with fear, anger and sadness, after someone of my generation was killed,” Ai Tamaki, who belongs to one of the groups, said tearfully at a news conference.

“As residents of Okinawa, which hosts many bases, we must continue to try and convey our feelings to the Japanese and U.S. governments,” Tamaki said.