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A banner outside the Royal beauty shop near Camp Hovey’s gate in Dongducheon seeks compensation for a May 19 fire that some say was started by a U.S. soldier.

A banner outside the Royal beauty shop near Camp Hovey’s gate in Dongducheon seeks compensation for a May 19 fire that some say was started by a U.S. soldier. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

DONGDUCHEON, South Korea — As many as 1,000 anti-American protesters are expected outside Camp Casey on Sept. 29, police officials confirmed this week.

Part of the protest centers on a 2nd Infantry Division soldier who was investigated in connection with a May 19 beauty shop fire outside the Camp Hovey gate. Uijeongbu prosecutors said this week that they don’t have enough evidence to charge Pvt. Dustin T. Roper with arson but that the Ministry of Justice likely will charge him for destruction of property and breaking and entering.

Roper also will appear in South Korean court on Oct. 8 for an unrelated assault trial, according to defense attorney Jung Jin-sung.

Anti-U.S. groups have noted on the Internet that no arson charge was filed and held a small protest rally in August.

The Hanchongryon umbrella group expects as many as 1,000 demonstrators to gather from 4 p.m. to 6:40 p.m., Yangju police said. As many as 200 people from the pro-military Dongducheon Merchants Association are expected to hold a counter-demonstration, police said.

The August rally appeared relatively peaceful, though 2nd Infantry Division officials say Hanchongryon has taken part in fights and tossed Molotov cocktails during past protests.

Police noted that there was some pushing and shoving in the August rally, but protesters generally used passive tactics.

“Some of those lying on their backs in the street were elderly women,” a Yangju policeman said. He said they are difficult to move and police are concerned protesters will use the same tactics at the next protest.

Yangju police declined to say how many police would attend the Sept. 29 protest, citing security concerns. However, police typically outnumber or at least match the protesters.

Roper, who was 20 at the time and scheduled to leave the country a few days after the fire, remains on international hold status, a 2nd ID spokeswoman confirmed this week.

The soldier was found in a nearby alley when firefighters responded at 3:55 a.m. on May 19.

Police said a nearby convenience store’s video camera shows a man matching Roper’s description breaking flower pots outside the beauty shop. However, the camera did not capture the start of the fire.

The fire was extinguished in six minutes, police said, but the shop was heavily damaged. The shop’s drawers were open and an obscenity was scrawled in English on a mirror in red lipstick, police said.

Owner Lee Ssang-ok, 51, lives above the beauty shop and was taken to Virgin Mary Hospital in Dongducheon for smoke inhalation treatment.

“What I want is very clear,” said Choi Kang-sung, 31, the owner’s son. “Put [Roper] in Korea detention and get him a fair punishment.”

Choi said he also wanted a public apology, compensation and revision of the status of forces agreement.

He said he is a member of the minority, leftist Democratic Labor Party, which generally opposes U.S. presence in South Korea.

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