Protests and repression in Japan on eve of G8 summit

Heavily-policed demonstrations were held in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo July 5 as world leaders began arriving on the island of Hokkaido for the G8 summit that opens Monday at Toyako mountain resort. A march of some 5,000 was lined with, and sometimes boxed in by, several thousand police in full riot gear. At least four people—including Reuters reporter Masahiro Koike—were arrested. Police shattered the window of a sound truck and dragged out the driver. AFP said the van failed to stop at a traffic stop. Japan Economic Newswire reported that a South Korean labor union official arriving for the protests was arrested at Sapporo’s airport July 4 “on suspicion of obstructing an immigration officer.”

The No! G8 Legal Team reported July 6 that several leftist leaders around Japan in the prelude to the summit, and “face years in prison.” The statement says local organizers fear arrest:

This latest action comes after weeks of repressive activity on behalf of the police and government. Activists throughout Japan have been arrested at demonstrations and in their homes, often on “technical” charges, such as not registering a change of address. Overt surveillance of activists, academics and reporters has been taking place for months, and with some local activists for years. International conference participants and protesters have been interrogated for hours at the border and many have been denied entry into the country without warrant. The legal team sees this as a violation of people’s right to freely exchange ideas.

“We were surprised by the excessive force used by police in today’s demonstration,” said Ko Watari, of WATCH, a Japanese legal network created to document police and government misconduct during the anti G8 protests. “This was a non-violent demonstration where no acts against property or people took place, or even appeared likely to take place.” The arrested Reuter’s cameraman was standing on a public sidewalk when seized by plainclothes police; his video camera was confiscated and has not been returned. The arrest of the sound truck driver followed immediately thereafter. Footage of the driver’s arrest shows him screaming in pain as the police pulled him out of the truck, his foot stuck in the steering wheel.

Japanese law permits police to hold and interrogate suspects in the police station for 23 days without formal charges. They can interrogate suspects for up to 12 hours at a time. While detained arrestees can be forced to sit on their knees the entire time they are awake, not being able to move, even to use the bathroom without asking permission. This permission is not always granted.

See our last post on Japan.

  1. Anti-G8 protesters head for Lake Toya resort
    From Gipfelsoli Infogroup, July 7:

    Anti-G8 protesters are on their way to the G8 Hotel
    This weekend the anti-G8 summit protests relocated from Sapporo to the vicinity of Lake Toya where the G8 summit is taking place. Around 1 000 activists are spread over the protest camps Toyoura, Soubetsu and Da-te. A number of official demonstrations have been registered against the official G8 summit. The goal is to get as close as possible to the conference hotel.

    Today, hundreds of demonstrators have set off from the camps to Lake Toya. The “Ainu Mosir” peoples are supporting the Soubestsu Camp demonstrators who for the large part are Japanese. The Ainu are demanding recognition as the original inhabitants of the Hokkaido peninsula.

    Japanese and international activists based at Camp Toyoura will attempt to disrupt the G8 summit with blockades and rallies. They will be accompanied by legal support groups.

    26 organizations from around the world have protested against the entry denial of Korean trade unionists with an open letter. Japanese immigration authorities had rejected the entry of 23 Koreans into Japan. They had intended to demonstrate against the trade politics of the G8 as well as US meat imports.

    Like during former anti-G8 protests, most recently in Heiligendamm in 2007, the police forces are supported by the military. Specifically, 4 fighter jets and AWACS reconaissance are being used, in conjunction with 12 war ships and patriot rockets.

    The internal deployment of the Japanese military is hugely contested. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution prohibits the use of land, sea and air forces. The military is not permitted to be used for conflict resolution. In order to circumvent this legislation, the Japanese “Self Defense Forces” were created. The air and sea missions at the G8 summit at Lake Toya will be carried out in a joint deployment of the SDF and the US military. The USA has a number of military bases in Japan, which has repeatedly sparked protests amongst people in Japan. Anti-militarist groups are part of this year’s summit protests.

    The official justification for the deployment of the military is the defense against “terrorist air strikes.” However, the Japanese police has had to admit that there is no evidence of such threats.

    “As in Heiligedamm in 2007, there are attempts to further establish the cooperation between police and military forces. Contrary to all claims it is clearly political protest that is the target of the military apparatus. We are deeply critical of the militarization of social conflict,” Hanne Jobst from the Gipfelsoli Infogroup explained.