Armed members of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s elite Ranger unit marched in full battle dress through central Tokyo on June 12 after a court rejected an application to stop them.
About 100 opponents and supporters gathered near the start of the controversial exercise in the dry riverbed of the Arakawa river, Tokyo, at 9 a.m. to watch about 20 Rangers set off on a 6.8-kilometer hike through Itabashi and Nerima wards toward the Nerima garrison.
Rival slogans including “Don’t make our town an exercise area” and “Come on, SDF” were directed at the troops, who were completing an 11-week training course. The rangers, many of whom were trainees, carried rifles and were wearing helmets and camouflage paint.
A group of residents failed to get an injunction to stop the march, the first deployment of armed GSDF Rangers to central Tokyo in 42 years.
Tokyo District Court had refused on June 11 an application from a group of local residents for an injunction stopping the march, saying encountering the troops would only impose “subjective feelings of discomfort” on local people.
A 63-year-old homemaker in Itabashi Ward, who witnessed the event, said: “I was surprised at the unfamiliar, strange situation. But, if I am told that it is necessary training for emergency situations, I think that that may be the case.”
Watching the march, Kazutoshi Taneda, lawyer for the residents, said: “The scene of exhausted (GSDF) members walking with alert expressions through an urban area is bizarre. This should be their last march (in central Tokyo). We have to maintain the peaceful lives of residents.”
The GSDF said it was not unusual for Rangers, an elite commando force, to march on public roads in rural areas.
On June 12, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto told reporters: “I think that this march is not peculiar. Training of this kind has been conducted before. I allowed the GSDF to conduct the march on the condition that they made sufficient safety precautions.”
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