65,000 people in rally mourn and demand withdrawal of Marines from Okinawa

65,000 people in rally  mourn and demand withdrawal of Marines from Okinawa

Participants carry signs calling for the withdrawal of the U.S. Marines in Okinawa at 3:18 p.m. on June 19 at Ounoyama Athletic Park


June 19, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo Digital Edition

At 2 p.m. on June 19 at Naha’s Ounoyama Athletic Park, a rally was held to protest in the wake of the rape and murder of a woman by a U.S. military contractor. The official title of the rally was, “Denounce the cruel act of brutality by a former Marine! Mass rally to mourn the victim and demand the withdrawal of all Marines from Okinawa.” It was organized by the All Okinawa Coalition to Prevent the Construction of a New Base at Henoko. According to the organizers, 65,000 participants attended the rally.

The victim’s father expressed his gratitude in a written message to the participants. “In order to prevent any more people from becoming victims, if all Okinawans come together as one in demanding the withdrawal of all the bases and opposing the construction of a new base in Henoko, I think it is possible. As a person of Okinawa, this is my fervent wish,” he said. “In order to prevent any more people from becoming victims, if all Okinawans come together as one in demanding the withdrawal of all the bases and opposing the construction of a new base in Henoko, I think it is possible. As a person of Okinawa, this is my fervent wish,” he said.

Governor Takeshi Onaga also spoke, referring to the 1995 rape of a young girl by three U.S. soldiers. “After the incident, we held a mass rally where we vowed never to let the same sort of thing happen again, but we were unable to change the political structure,” he said. “As a politician and as governor, I am deeply regretful of that. I am so sorry,” he added, apologizing to the people.

Governor Onaga also said that Okinawa is facing a huge wall in its attempt to see drastic revisions to the Status of Forces Agreement and prevent the construction of a new base in Henoko. However, he said, “We must bring our hearts together as one and break down this wall with a strong will and with pride. Today is a day of decision. Let’s give it our all.”

A resolution was adopted at the rally that states that anger and sadness of Okinawans toward continuous crimes and accidents involving people affiliated with the U.S. military has surpassed a tipping point. It protests that repeated promises from the Japanese and U.S. governments each time an incident occurs to enforce strict discipline and prevent recurrences ring hollow, and that to protect the human rights of Okinawans, a large-scale reduction of U.S. bases in Okinawa, and in particular the withdrawal of the U.S. Marines, is of the essence.

The resolution also demanded: (1) An apology and full compensation to the victim’s family and to the Okinawan people; (2) the closure and removal of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, not conditioned on its relocation within Okinawa; and (3) drastic revision of the Status of Forces Agreement.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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