Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sapporo, July 5th

On July 5th, people from all corners of the world marched in the first demo against global capitalism in Sapporo City, and possibly the largest demonstration in the city's history. Called the "Peace Walk for Challenging the G8," a diversity of people from all walks of life--trade unionists, syndicalists, the Kimono and Yukata bloc, clowns, puppetistas, IMCistas, the black bloc, communists, Wobblies, etc...from Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, the UK, Australia, the U.S.-- converged in Odori Koen (park) at 3 PM and marched through the center of the city. I met with two members of the CNT-F briefly, and linked up with the 200 or so people represented by giant red-and-black flags and lead by a large sound truck with a DJ blasting hip-hop, punk and reggae music. We commenced the march, but not without lines of thousands of riot police walking alongside, containing us onto one side of the street. This did not prevent us from enjoying ourselves; people danced and spirits were high, but we knew it was only a matter of time before something would escalate. At one point during the march, the truck stopped with some commotion, and the word was that the cops tried seizing it, but they were met with a lot of resistance.

The march continued on, but only for a few more minutes before the cops more forcefully attempted to seize our beloved sound truck. They managed to form a barricade in front of it, and banged on the driver's window with clubs. The driver refused to open the door, and honked the horn in protest. More and more police formed on the sides of the truck, and despite the driver's resistance and the support that demonstrators gave him from the sides, the police smashed the window, forced the door open, and violently dragged him out by his ankles (Click here to watch the video). Two other people, one a sound DJ from the top of the truck, and one a news reporter from the Associated Press were also arrested during this clash. At the time that this story was written, they are still in state custody. According to the No-G8! Legal Action Team, those detained can be held for 23 days without prosecution, and their families harassed. Furthermore, the Japanese legal system imposes collective punishment; organizers can be punished for activities that others did. Within jail, prisoners` physical movements are greatly restricted: they must ask permission to lie down or sit up.

After the arrests, the march continued without music, and concluded at Nakajima Koen (park) with a few announcements and the decision to march to the jail. Approximately 200 people walked north, stopping by a police station to see our sound truck parked next to a line of police and driven away when we approached, and we eventually reached the jail where our friends were being held. We raised flags and chanted in the face of the heavily guarded station for about one hour, and organizers stated that while our support was needed there, it was unlikely that we would have much of an effect, since the arrestees would be held for a long period of time.

We walked back to Odori Koen to relax and construct a plan for legal support, but as we were sitting a van playing loud nationalist anthems drove by. Everyone stood back up, and people demonstrated against the Uyoko dantai (right-wing extremists) , who were apparently heading up to the jail to support the police in their actions at the demonstrations. One person managed to grab a flag off of their van, but before a confrontation escalated, buses filled with riot police drove in and three lines of police formed to guard us from the van. The right-wingers demanded their flag back, and after police negotiated with the legal team, they drove away, and the police dispersed.

As the evening concluded, we were warned that the convergence center and the camp were prone to a police raid, and in general there were police and secret service agents scattered throughout the city. As we walked around, we could see an extremely visible police presence. The next day, many people left for the Toyoura camps to protest the summit, while a few of us stayed in Sapporo to do legal support work and write calls for solidarity for the July 5th arrestees. Fortunately, we managed to raise a lot of money and awareness of the issue, but there is still more work that needs to be done.

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1 comment:

Kaze no Kae said...

Keep up the good work, guys ^_^