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Demonstrators protest GI behavior, issue calls for troop withdrawals

Date Posted: 2008-03-24

An estimated 6,000 Okinawans irritated by crimes committed by American service personnel turned out Sunday to demand both behavior changes and a reduction in the number of GI’s on the island.
“The voice of Okinawa is angry,” declared one of the protest organizers.” Tetsuei Tamayose told the rally participants at a Chatan Town baseball stadium “We need a fundamental change.” Demonstrators braved a light rain to protest various incidents of misconduct by American troops over the past several months, including the rape allegations against a Marine in February. In that case, Japanese authorities dropped charges against Staff Sergeant Tyrone Hadnott, 38, after the girl involved asked that charges be dropped.
Police called the rally peaceful, noting there were no incidents and no arrests. Some demonstrators took the rally across Highway 58 to the gates of a nearby U.S. Marine installation. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima and leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party boycotted the event, along with dozens of politicians and community leaders.
Okinawa City mayor Mitsuko Tomon did participate, complaining “Okinawa has been lodging protests against the governments of Japan and the United States as crimes have been repeated because of the presence of the military bases here.” The anti-base activist mayor says “Each time we protest, they have trampled upon our voices and heinous incidents have continued.”
Demonstrators carried signs and banners demanding that U.S. forces be removed from Okinawa. Currently, more than half the American military in Japan are stationed on Okinawa, providing a significant boost to the local economy. The rally had far fewer participants than organizers had expected. The 60 workers union and education groups who put the rally together had predicted more than 10,000 would demonstrate against current military policies, and would demand more stringent disciplinary controls be placed on service personnel.

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