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GINOWAN, Okinawa — An Okinawan says a Marine military policeman assaulted him Thursday during a protest rally at the Highway 330 gate to Futenma Marine Corps Air Station.

Zenji Shimada filed an assault complaint with Okinawa prefectural police, charging he was pushed to the ground during a brief scuffle.

The alleged incident took place when about 30 people arrived at the gate around noon, after a Naha District Court judge in Okinawa City dismissed a civil suit against the base commander, Col. Richard Lueking. A group of 404 residents of Ginowan, where Futenma is located, filed a suit in 2002 complaining aircraft noise caused them physical and mental harm. They sought $5.51 million in compensation and a halt to all night flights from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

They named the Japanese government and Lueking as co-defendants, but the cases were separated in June and Judge Judge Kyoji Ida dismissed the case against Lueking on Thursday. He ruled that a Japanese law states when a public official causes damages to others intentionally or negligently while on official business, the responsibility to make restitution is with the national government.

The angry plaintiffs rallied on the courthouse steps and then drove to Futenma and demanded to see the commander.

“We understand that the protesters rushed to the gate, facing off against the military police officers as the MPs started to close the gate,” an Okinawa police spokesman said Friday morning. “And that was when an argument began with a little exchange of pushing.”

He said Okinawa police officers at the scene separated the protesters from the MPs, who closed the gates.

Shortly after the rally, Shimada filed the assault claim.

“According to Japanese police officers at the scene, however, the fact that he was pushed down was not confirmed,” the police spokesman said. “We are investigating.”

He added that Shimada also filed a complaint about the way Okinawa police handled the incident, accusing them of taking the side of the MPs.

“We will carefully look into the event to see if there is a case,” he said.

Marine officials could not be reached Friday for comment.

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