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Governor, LDP to bypass anti-American protest rally

Date Posted: 2008-03-13

Nearly 60 groups have formed an executive committee to organize what they hope will be a strong demonstration to protest crimes committed by GI’s on Okinawa, but they’re lacking the political clout they were hoping for.

Okinawa’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has already denounced the rally plans, saying they want no part of it. Workers unions, teacher and other education groups, women’s groups and the Okinawa Peace Center are firm in their plan for a March 23rd rally at Chatan Town’s Baseball Field. The LDP and Governor Hirokazu Nakaima have spoken out that the incident that started the entire rally demand centered on a young girl who accused a Marine of raping her has since withdrawn the charges, and the Naha Prosecutor’s Office has dismissed the case against the man.

“We have to think of the girl’s feelings and peace of mind,” says the governor, and not make noise.” Nakaima did say, however, he’ll discuss the rally plans with various groups and then reevaluate his decision. His vice governor, Zenki Nakazato, has called for calm over the incidents, pointing to more important strategic interests that must be taken care of for Okinawa’s future. He said, essentially, the future of the strategic alliance between Japan and the U.S., and maintaining bases on Okinawa, must be considered heavily.

Protesters have chosen a slogan for their Easter Sunday 2 p.m. demonstration. “Let’s Protest the Scandal and Accidents by Military Members Prefecture Rally” is the formal name, but executive committee members are reportedly frustrated by the lack of public support for their action. The committee plans to ask all Prefecture Assembly members to attend, but that’s questionable in light of the LDP decision to skip the rally.

“Our living and human rights have been threatened by these incidents and accidents committed by American soldiers,” says Haruko Odo. “This violence against women has been happening for more than 60 years.” Odo is chairwoman of the Prefecture Women’s Association, one of the core groups sponsoring the rally.

The protest rally’s executive committee is taking the demonstration theme beyond military incidents, agreeing to demand the U.S. and Japanese governments agree to revamp the Status of Forces Agreement, and to cut the number of American bases on Okinawa. The rally idea was first kindled last month to protest the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by a 38-year-old Marine, Tyrone Hadnott. After Japanese officials dropped the charges and handed the Marine staff sergeant over to the U.S. military, many Okinawans backed off their initial support for a rally.

The concept of reducing American bases has some support, including that of Tetsuei Tamayose, chairman of a children’s welfare group. He cautions, however, that any rally must be carefully planned in a way it can be accepted by Okinawans of all political and social views and backgrounds.

The Komeito, the LDP’s political partner, has also chosen not to participate or endorse the rally.

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