Protests erupted across Japan on the evening of May 19 in response to the forced passage of the so-called anti-conspiracy bill in the House of Representatives Committee on Judicial Affairs that afternoon.
- 【In Photos】Protesters rally across Japan against 'anti-conspiracy' bill
- 【Related】Editorial: We oppose passage of 'anti-conspiracy' bill in current form
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- 【Related】'Anti-conspiracy' bill steamrolled through lower house committee
In the capital, protesters gathered at the National Diet Building. The demonstrations were led by the pro-constitutionalism multipartisan legislators' group Rikken Forum and the citizens' group Anti-War Committee of 1000, with participants criticizing the bill as an attempt to silence voices that challenge the government.
"If the bill is passed, wiretapping and other surveillance methods will change and it makes me uneasy. Using numbers like that to push through a vote is just terrible," said Issei Kikuchi, a 63-year-old participant from Saitama Prefecture.
More groups joined the demonstrations in front of the Diet as the night went on, with protestors waving yellow placards emblazoned with the words "No to the anti-conspiracy bill" and chanting "We firmly denounce the steamrolling of the bill in the lower house committee!" Shiori Akasaka, 27, of Chiba Prefecture said, "I feel as though this bill can be interpreted to make me a target of investigation for just participating in these protests. I want the government to clearly explain the bill in the House of Councillors."
Protests were also held in three major cities in the prefectures of Aichi, Gifu, and Mie. In Nagoya, roughly 1,000 lawyers, scholars and other protesters gathered on a major thoroughfare in the city's Naka Ward for a demonstration organized by a joint action group advocating an end to the Abe Cabinet pushing through legislation. Participants held signs and banners that read "the anti-conspiracy bill must be rejected!" and "Don't lie about it being counterterrorism!"
A 53-year-old day care worker from the city's Atsuta Ward said, "I'm uneasy that even gathering together as citizens for the improvement of society will become illegal under the new law. I will not be defeated, and I will keep raising my voice against this bill."
In the city of Gifu in the neighboring prefecture, roughly 300 residents participated in a protest organized by Sogakari, a group backing the Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 which has also run an ongoing campaign against security legislation passed in 2015. "There wasn't enough debate," Gifu resident Masami Murase, 83, argued. "It's terrifying that the government's watch over citizens will get stronger."
In Tsu, Mie Prefecture, two groups advocating against revision of the Constitution gathered in the center of the city, warning that "surveillance into every corner of the lives of citizens will become widespread." Shigehiko Kimura, a 55-year-old member of a group from the nearby city of Kameyama, stated, "Using force of numbers to pass a law with contents that citizens hardly understand is a problem. I will continue to rally for the repeal of the bill."
The protests spread to the farthest reaches of the country in Hokkaido and Okinawa. Shortly after the forced passing of the bill in the lower house committee, student activist group Hokkaido Peace Action Forum held a protest in Odori Park in Sapporo's Chuo Ward which attracted some 750 participants.
Constitutional activist group Hokkaido Kenpo Kyodo Center representative Koichi Kurosawa called out, "The anti-conspiracy bill is a movement towards wartime laws and we must continue to raise our voices so that not even one line of our Constitution can be changed!" The protest made its way to the front of JR Sapporo Station, with participants chanting "We don't need a law that limits free speech!" and "Quickly repeal the anti-conspiracy bill!"
On the opposite end of the nation in Okinawa Prefecture, the passage of the bill was felt strongly by those opposing the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the city of Ginowan to Henoko, in the prefectural city of Nago. "It's an egregious law meant to suppress the movement in Okinawa against U.S. military bases," said Hiroshi Ashitomi, 70, co-head of an anti-base council. "The only thing to do is repeal it."
The government began land reclamation work in the sea off Henoko on April 25. Ashitomi and others from the group silently protest the relocation of the base by sitting in front of U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab or approaching the construction site using canoes on a daily basis. In the course of the protests, Okinawa Peace Action Center leader Hiroji Yamashiro, 64, was arrested on suspicion of forcible obstruction of business and detained for roughly five months.
"All we can do is peacefully protest the relocation of the base, but it's beyond my imagination how authorities plan to implement the 'anti-conspiracy bill' on us," Ashitomi said.