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What's driving the huge anti-US military protests in Japan? (+video)

Tens of thousands of protestors attended an anti-US military demonstration Sunday in Okinawa, Japan. The protest follows a recent crime streak, most notably the death of a 20-year-old woman in which a US civilian base worker is suspected. 

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    Protestors rally against the presence of US military bases on the Japanese island of Okinawa in Naha, Okinawa, Sunday. Many of them wore black to mourn the rape and killing of a local woman in which a former U.S. Marine is a suspect.
    Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News/AP
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In a major demonstration Sunday, tens of thousands of protestors on the Japanese island of Okinawa demanded the removal of American bases from the island. Organizers estimated the crowd at 65,000, and said it was the largest protest against the US presence there in twenty years, the New York Times reported. 

The protest comes after the murder of a 20-year-old woman and subsequent arrest of a US Marine veteran working as an independent contractor on the base as a suspect in the case. The demonstration was advertised as a memorial service for the murdered woman, the Times reported.

The protestors demanded a review of the US-Japanese security agreement, which places most of America's troops in Japan in Okinawa, the Associated Press reported. 

Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, who ran on an anti-base platform, called for the removal of Marines, according to Stars and Stripes. 

“I will never forgive the inhumane and brutal act that trampled women’s human rights," he said. "I am indignant."

The body of Rina Shimabukuro was found a month after she disappeared in April, Starts and Stripes reported. Kenneth Franklin Gadson, a civilian base worker is suspected of killing Ms. Shimabukuro. At the rally, a letter from Shimabukuro's father, which decried the crime and others committed by US servicemen, was read.

"Why did my daughter have to be a victim?" her father wrote, according to Stars and Stripes. "Why was it her? Why did she have to be killed? I now share the sorrow and pains that countless number of families have felt in the past."

Shimabukuro's murder is one in a recent slew of crimes associated with US servicemen, Starts and Stripes reported. A Japanese woman was raped by a Navy sailor, and another sailor was suspected of driving under the influence following a wrong-way crash.

In response, American forces are under a 30-day curfew and are prohibited from drinking in public. The Navy set a stricter drinking ban following the wrong-way crash. 

The US contends the crime rate is lower among their ranks than the general public, the AP reported. 

The island has seen similar anti-US military protests in the past. In 1995, when two Marines and a Navy sailor were arrested for raping a 12-year-old girl, which stirred public outrage.

"These incidents happen as long as there are bases," organizer Nahoko Hishiyama said at the rally, according to Stars and Stripes.

Okinawa has a disproportional amount of American soldiers compared to the rest of Japan. About half of the American soldiers stationed in Japan are stationed on Okinawa, the Times reports. The island hosts three-quarters of the total acreage in Japan taken up by US bases.

Similar protests were scheduled in all but 6 of Japan's 47 prefectures, Stars and Stripes reported. In Tokyo, more than 7,000 protestors demanded a U.S. pullout and to speak out against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe wants to increase Japan's international military standing by building the military. His government is behind the Security Agreement with the US that the protestors spoke out against. 

"This is not how we want the country to be," said university student Jinshiro Motoyama. "We want the bases gone."

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