Japanese woman’s murder provokes protests against U.S. bases in Okinawa

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Organizers say at least 60,000 people marched on Sunday to ask Japan's government to kick out U.S. bases

Protests come after a 20-year-old woman was murdered by a civilian worker in April

CNN  — 

Tens of thousands of people have demanded an end to the United States’ military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa following the killing of a local woman.

Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a 32-year-old civilian worker who was stationed at the U.S. Kadena Air Base, was last month arrested on suspicion of murdering the 20 year old and abandoning her body.

In an emotional letter read out during a march on the island Sunday, the victim’s father said, for the local people’s protection, all United States military bases on Japan’s Okinawa prefecture had to go.

“Why my daughter? Why was my daughter killed?” the letter read. “To avoid [another] victim, I want all US bases removed… I believe it’s possible if all the people of Okinawa come together.”

More than 60,000 people attended the protest in the prefecture’s capital, Naha, according to organizers.

It was organized by the All Okinawa Kaigi, a group that includes the governor of Okinawa and other local politicians and mayors.

Speaking at the protest, Governor Takeshi Onaga said he would strongly ask the Japanese government to move all United States military bases outside of Okinawa.

“The government should know that the anger of the people in Okinawa is almost reaching a limit and it is not [right] to sacrifice Okinawa people for military bases anymore,” he said.

Tensions running high

Relations between American military personnel and local residents on Okinawa have deteriorated in recent months following several violent incidents related to American bases on the island.

In March, U.S. Navy sailor Justin Castellanos was arrested over the rape of a Japanese woman in Kyushu prefecture.

During his visit to Japan in May, President Barack Obama apologized to the Japanese people for the latest incident in Okinawa.

“I think the Japanese people should know we are deeply moved and working with the Japanese government to prosecute not only this crime but prevent these kinds of crimes from happening again.”