Protesters fighting discrimination held one of their biggest rallies in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward on Sept. 22, with participants young and old expressing disgust at groups that yell menacing and hate-filled words at ethnic Koreans.
The March on Tokyo for Freedom was organized mainly by the People’s Front of Anti-Racism, an organization that has scuffled with anti-Korea protesters in Koreatown in the Shin-Okubo district of the ward.
On Sept. 22, the anti-racism march drew about 1,200 people, largely through Twitter and other social media, according to the organizers.
“I was shocked to watch people smirking while saying ‘die’ to their targets,” said Noe Nagashima, a 15-year-old high school student. “Our generation must show an interest (in this issue) to change such a situation.”
The group started at Shinjuku Central Park and marched 4 kilometers along Shokuan-dori street and into the Kabukicho district of the ward.
Those leading the group carried placards with such messages as “Let’s live together” and wore black suits modeled on the March on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Protesters who want to deny rights to ethnic Koreans in Japan have held rallies in Shin-Okubo and Osaka’s Tsuruhashi district, spouting such vitriolic phrases as “Kill all Koreans.” Their words and actions have been reported in the international media and have drawn the scorn of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Yoshitaka Shiihara, 46, learned about the Shinjuku demonstration on the Internet and decided to join.
“I watched a video of the hate speech and felt that it was just terrible,” said the self-employed man who lives in Tokyo. “I believe there are now more people who hate specific ethnic groups based on misleading information.”
Shiihara also said he will raise his voice against those engaged in such discriminatory behavior if the opportunity arises.
Sora Tezuka, a 22-year-old university student and committee member of the march, stressed that the group wants an end to all forms of discrimination.
“We are calling for the elimination of all discrimination rather than countering specific people,” he said.
The theme of the march included the battle against unfair treatment of sexual minorities, disabled people and other groups. It was supported by Diet members, artists, lawyers and other prominent people, including author Keiichiro Hirano and sociologist Shinji Miyadai.
“Many people who understand our purpose have supported our march,” Tezuka said. “We’d like to hold this demonstration each year.”
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