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Protesters rail against bases in Okinawa after U.S. military employee arrested

People stage a protest outside the gates of the U.S. Marines' Camp Schwab in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on May 20, 2016, following the arrest of a former U.S. Marine over the death of an Okinawa woman. (Mainichi)

URUMA, Okinawa -- Anti U.S. base protesters in Okinawa stepped up their activities on May 20, one day after a former U.S. Marine was arrested in connection with the death of an Okinawa woman here.

Military employee Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 32, was arrested on suspicion of abandoning the body of the 20-year-old victim. Demonstrators continuing sit-ins in front of Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nago, protesting against the relocation there of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, held up pictures of the victim and called for the removal of U.S. military bases from Okinawa.

Some 60 people were gathered in front of the Camp Schwab gate. "We won't forgive crime! We will protect our lives and our livelihoods!" exclaimed a protester.

A woman said to the riot police standing guard, "Who are the police protecting? We are protesting (the victim's death), so why do you make us leave? More crimes like this will happen."

A man being carried away by riot police yelled, "Let me go! She (the victim) didn't deserve to be killed!"

When a U.S. military vehicle came through the gate, the protesters yelled, "Get out!" The U.S. personnel inside waved back.

"What would you do if it were your little sister? All of you are angry too, aren't you?" said Noriko Shido, 66, from Sapporo, holding up a picture of the victim to the riot police. She began protesting in Okinawa in February 2015, saying an acquaintance was assaulted in Okinawa by a Japan Coast Guard member. She now spends around half of every month in Okinawa.

"The bases are the source of crime. We don't need any bases," Shido said.

In the city of Uruma, where the victim lived, Yuko Uehara, 41, said, "As a fellow woman, I'm scared and can't forgive what happened. My daughter is working in the Suzaki area (where the victim's smartphone GPS information was last detected), so I am telling her to be careful."

She added, "As long as the military is here, I think the same kind of incident can happen. But I have five or six relatives who work on bases, and not all of the U.S. soldiers are bad. I have mixed feelings."

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