( Reuters ) - Thousands of Okinawans rallied on Sunday to protest crimes by U.S. troops and demand a smaller U.S. military presence on the southern Japanese island after last month's arrest of a Marine on suspicion of raping a schoolgirl.
"Crimes and accidents due to the bases have happened over and over and Okinawa has protested with intense anger to both the U.S. and Japanese governments," Kyodo quoted Okinawa City Mayor Mitsuko Tomon as telling a crowd gathered in heavy rain in the town of Chatan, where the February incident occurred.
"But each time, our voices have been trampled and there has been no end to the heinous crimes," the mayor added.
Organizers estimated about 6,000 people took part in the rally, Kyodo news agency said. Police declined to give an estimate.
The arrest of U.S. Marine Tyrone Hadnott, 38, on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl sparked outrage on Okinawa, host to a big chunk of the nearly 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan, and stirred memories of the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl that prompted huge anti-base protests and jolted the U.S.-Japan alliance.
The girl, who came under heavy criticism on the Internet, later dropped charges, and Hadnott was released to the custody of U.S. military authorities, who have been investigating the case.
Participants in Sunday's rally adopted a resolution demanding consolidation of the U.S. bases and revisions to a pact governing the status of U.S. military personnel in Japan to give Japanese authorities greater legal jurisdiction.
Both Tokyo and Washington have so far rejected demands to revise the Status of Forces Agreement.