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KIN, Okinawa — Okinawa police are investigating a 39-year-old American civilian base employee for allegedly swiping eight banners from a site used by Okinawans protesting the construction of an urban combat training complex on Camp Hansen.

According to Okinawa police, a Kin resident spotted a car driving to the base’s main gate at 6:15 a.m. Thursday with about eight banners, some of them 10 feet long, stuffed into the back seat. The banners appeared to be similar to ones anti-base protesters hung at a site, just outside the base, used as an observation tower and rallying point.

The man followed the car to the gate, retrieved one of the banners and called police, who discovered that someone had trashed the protest site sometime earlier, tearing down signs and stealing the banners.

All of the banners later were returned.

“It took weeks for women in our community to make the banners,” said Masafumi Ikehara, mayor of the Igei district of Kin. “We will not tolerate such conduct.

He said he would file a criminal complaint.

A spokesman from the Ishikawa police station said charges of theft and vandalism were possible and military police were questioning the American civilian. No one had been arrested as of late Friday.

The protest site is located along a road near Highway 329, adjacent to Gate 4 and the new training complex construction site.

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