‘Never again!’ Japanese hold massive rally to protest Abe’s foreign wars bill (PHOTO, VIDEO)
Masses of people in Tokyo flooded the street in front of the parliament’s main entrance and surrounded the building. A nearby park was also swarming with demonstrators. Despite being present in heavy numbers, the police were unable to restrict the demonstrators to the sidewalks because of the size of the crowd, Reuters reports.
Protesters of all ages, raging from young people to the elderly who had witnessed WWII, braved the rain to participate in the rally. Many people arrived with their children. The demonstrators were singing songs, shouting slogans and waving banners and placards as they demanded that the bill be defeated and Shinzo Abe leave office.
“War is over!” “No War!” “No to war, yes to peace!”“Peace not war” and “Stop the security bills,” as well as “Abe, quit!” and “Stop Abe!” were among the slogans featured on the posters, with some placards depicting the Prime Minister as a warmonger, or even Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
A huge black and white banner adorned with balloons reading “Abe should step down” was displayed in the middle of the crowd.
Sunday’s rally, which was organized by several protest groups, was among the most massive protests in Japan in recent years, with organizers putting the number of participants at 120,000. Japanese police estimated that only 30,000 protesters came to the parliament building.
Ken Takada, one of the chief organizers, compared the Sunday protest to Japan’s biggest civil demonstration ever back in 1960, when people gathered near the parliament to protest a Japan-US security treaty revision. Police estimated the turnout for that rally at about 130,000, while the organizers claimed it was 300,000.
Famous Japanese musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto joined the rally and delivered a speech before the protesters. Sakamoto is famous for winning two Golden Globes and a Grammy, as well as an Oscar awarded for composing the music to ‘the Last Emperor’ film.
Several opposition party leaders also attended the protest, including Katsuya Okada, head of Japan’s largest opposition party – the Democratic Party of Japan.
“We need to make the Abe government realize the public is having a sense of crisis and angry. Let’s work together to have the bills scrapped,” Katsuya Okada said addressing the demonstrators.
Many protesters expressed their frustration to the media, along with their reasons for attending the rally.
“If I were to describe Japan with one phrase, it would be ‘a peaceful nation.’ But, right now, the unimaginable, the unrealistic is happening, where peace is being destroyed. That fear is being cast upon this nation right now,” said one of the protesters, university professor Mami Aoji, as quoted by Euronews.
“Japan should not become a country that wages war. Besides, Japan must build a good relationship with its Asian neighbours,” added another female demonstrator.
“If I don’t take action and try to put a stop on this, I will not be able to explain myself to my child in the future,” Naoko Hiramatsu, an associate professor in French, who came to the protest with her four-year-old son, told Reuters.
“The way the government brushes aside public worries . . . it’s as though Japan is slipping back into its pre-World War II state,” said a translator, Hiromi Miyasaka, as quoted by the Japan Times.
“In this age of nuclear weapons, you will never know how massive a death toll is going to be. The danger is far bigger than before. We should never let it happen again,” said a 75-year-old Michio Yamada, who was determined to prevent his country from ever engaging in war again because of what he witnessed during the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 1945, as he told the Japan Times.
Sunday’s Tokyo rally, as massive as it was, was only one of more than 300 protests staged in Japan over the weekend to say ‘No’ to what the demonstrators call a violation of the constitution.
The weekend’s wave of rallies was just the latest in a series of protests that began after a controversial bill proposed by Shinzo Abe’s government was pre-approved by the lower house of the country’s parliament in July.
An earlier wave of mass rallies protesting the bill was held across the country on August 23.
On Thursday, a group of Tokyo university students started a hunger strike outside the parliament demanding the abolition of the legislation, claiming to be determined to continue the strike as long as possible, as reported by the South China Morning Post.
If passed, the bill would allow the Japanese military to take part in foreign operations, even if Japan is not directly threatened, for “the protection of the allying countries,” which it does not specify. It would also expand Japanese participation in UN missions, and enable Self-Defense forces to lend logistic support to the US and other “friendly nations.”
The bill has been welcomed by the US, which is seeking more support from its Asian ally, but was met with disfavor by China and South Korea, which are engaged in territorial disputes with Japan.
The Japanese public has consistently opposed the bill, with the latest poll conducted by the Kyodo news agency suggesting that almost 70 percent are against it receiving final approval.