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Hate speech demo in Kawasaki met with hundreds-strong counter-protest

People protest against a hate speech rally in the Kawasaki Ward of Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on July 16, 2017. (Mainichi)

KAWASAKI, Kanagawa -- A hate speech rally here on July 16 targeting Koreans in Japan was met with a much larger counter-protest of several hundred people.

At around 11 a.m., approximately 30 demonstrators arrived by coach at a spot more than 400 meters away from the starting point of the rally, bearing placards with Ministry of Justice posters modified with slogans including, "Warning to people from outside Japan. We do not tolerate hate speech toward Japanese people." Later, the group was surrounded by police officers as the march began.

The man behind the July 16 hate speech rally had organized a similar demonstration in June 2016, which was brought to a halt following persuasion by police. He announced the July 16 protest on its blog several days in advance. When the protesters went ahead with the march, they found themselves faced with several hundred residents shouting out chants such as, "Stop the hate speech rally," "Stop discrimination" and "Go home," and holding placards with messages including, "Hate speeches destroy people's souls."

Since 2013, the man has mounted more than 10 rallies. From around 2015, he has been organizing demonstrations under the slogan, "Japan cleansing, starting in Kawasaki" -- evoking ethnic cleansing.

At his "Japan cleansing" protests, held in a coastal section of the city's Kawasaki Ward that is home to many Korean residents, the protesters have spewed vitriol such as, "Cockroach Koreans, go home," and "We're going to strangle your necks slowly with silk." The chief advisor of the extreme rightist "Japan First Party" has also urged people to attend these events.

In June 2016, the man planned a "third round" of its "Japan cleansing, starting in Kawasaki" rallies, but a temporary injunction issued by the Yokohama District Court's Kawasaki branch banned such demonstrations from taking place in the city's Sakuramoto district. As a result, the group changed its rally venue to Nakahara Ward -- about 8 kilometers away -- but it was blocked by numerous protesting residents, and was eventually forced to stop following persuasion by the police.

In a June message on his blog, the man made statements including, "Don't underestimate Japanese people. We're organizing a demonstration in Kawasaki." The Japan First Party chief also wrote: "We will get revenge once again."

When the July 16 hate speech rally began, some counter-protesters tried to block the march by sitting in the middle of the road, but were moved on by police. However, the hate group members gave up and got back on their coach about 10 minutes after the start of the demonstration.

Choi Kang-ija, a 44-year-old third generation Korean resident of Japan who lives in the city's Kawasaki Ward, and who has campaigned against discrimination, said, "I did not come here to see the despair. I see this day as a new start -- whereby even if residents can't stop hate speech rallies, policy implementation and the development of new laws can."

Meanwhile, on July 16, the chief advisor of Japan First Party tweeted, "The rally was a huge success. In the end, the attempts to block us were nothing but a damp squib," and, "This compensates for what happened last year."

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