To better understand the wave of anti-racist, anti-police protests that have been occurring in Japan, and how solidarity with Black Lives Matter is being built, I spoke to translator Nami Nanami, who was kind enough to help us translate insights from the Organizer of the 5/30 protests against Tokyo’s Police. We discuss the incident that spurred this event
1.At around 16:00 on May 22, Kurdish man, he was driving to the dentist. When passing the police car, he said to the police officer from the window, “Otsukaresama.”, a colloquial Japanese greeting phrase. While driving his car for a while, he noticed that a police car was following him. The police car then rang a siren and ordered his car to stop. He got out of the car and protested to the police officer, “Why are you following me? Why are you not wearing a mask? Don’t get near me!”A police officer said, “Can we look inside your car?” but he refused because he was in a hurry.
The police officer’s attitude suddenly changed, and he was attacked by two police officers who yelled, strangled and kicked him. A friend that was accompanying he took out his smartphone and filmed the incident.However, the police officer who noticed it grabbed the smartphone, unlocked the smartphone with the face recognition function, and deleted the video. Then detectives came to the scene. he was surrounded by dozens of police officers. Despite he’s refusal, his car was inspected without a search warrant.
However, no violation of law could be found, and he was released from police custody in about an hour. Neighbors also took a video of the situation and he was able to get the video. Also, the video that the police officer tried to delete remained in the cloud so he could restore it. He sent the video to his friend Deniz and Deniz spread the video on Facebook. Deniz also sent the video to a journalist, Mr Kashida and Mr Kashida spread the details of the case on Twitter.
I also watched the video and created a tag #0503渋谷署前抗議 which means #0530ProtestInFrontOfTheShibuyaPoliceStation, and called for protest action. The number of video views exceeded 500,000 (currently over 1 million) very quickly, and the interest of the society towards the incident increased. In my application for a demonstration to the police, I wrote that 20 people planned to participate, but there were about 200 people on the day.
2. I also learned about George Floyd while spreading the information about this assault incident. On the day of the protest, many participants shouted “No justice No peace”,same slogan in the US.I think there were many participants because they wanted to express their solidarity with George Floyd.
3．There was also the Antifa flag in the action, but I do not know much about the history of the Antifa movement in Japan. Antifa flags are often raised in anti-hate speech protests. I think that people who have resonated with foreign Antifa movements have personally raised the flag. I think there was almost no participation as a group. Most were individuals.
There was also one person wearing a Japanese Communist Party youth armband on his arm, others included LGBT, feminist, foreigner, anarchist, and the communist group “Bund” also. Some people even said it was their first demo. Many people met for the first time. There was a certain number of people at demo who did counter protests against against chauvinists and racists in the protest.
4．Until now, there have been no major protests against the police in Japan. (It seems that this was often the case when the student movement and civic movement in the 1970s was active.) I support immigrants without visas. The main activity is to visit those foreigners in Tokyo Immigration detention center. Through such campaign, the Kurdish community and the movement were connected, and this led to the actions as described above.
5．I think that the root of the problem lies in the fact that we went through the post-war period without reflecting upon the emperor system and Japanese imperialism of the wartime. Japan has made the transition to an immigrant society, but has no established system of protection for foreigners. Technical interns, immigration detention, negligent investigations into sexual violence, and the abuse of foreigners by the authorities have same underlying problem. Discrimination that was previously widespread in Japanese society has been made even more severe by Abe’s fascist government. I think we are facing the same problem than America or Europe. We need to stand up to violence and not cry ourselves to sleep.
6. Whenever you see someone in need, whenever you see someone is unreasonably in hard situation, you should speak up for them on social media or in the streets. Raise your voice to society. Don’t let them cry themselves to sleep.
For more on Progressive politics and organizing in Japan you can follow Nami on Twitter:@naminanamix
* We will be hosting a podcast with Gregor Wakounig on the long history of ANTIFA in Japan. You can listen on the Arts of Travel Podcast