Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Akira Maeda & Hundreds of Tokyoites Respond to Ultra-rightists in Kyoto: "We Should Raise our Voices and Act so Racism does not Prevail."

Via Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre Blog has posted Akira Maeda's: "A Tokyo Meeting In Response to the Racists' Attack on the Korean School in Kyoto:"
Akira Maeda, a law professor of Tokyo Zokei University reported the meeting held starting at 6 PM, December 19 in Tokyo called "12.19 Emergency Report Meeting: Do not allow racial discrimination - Kyoto Korean school incident." The meeting took place at Tokyo Shigoto Centre in Iidabashi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, in response to the recent incident of this right-wing and xenophobic group zaitokukai's public harassment of a Korean school in Kyoto. According to Akira Maeda, the meeting was attended by about 200 people, and probably 240, including security volunteers. About 30 people could not get in because the room was too full. Following is an English summary of Maeda's report of the meeting (Translation: Satoko Norimatsu). The original text in Japanese is below the translation.

1) A successful meeting

The 10-minute video clip of the incident was played, and the Principal of Kyoto Korean school reported the incident. It was made clear that the claim by "zaitokukai" regarding the use of the public park was ungrounded. Then Maeda explained what hate crime was. Then Kim Donghak, Chair of the Association of Korean Human Right in Japan, presented the historical concept of discrimination against Koreans and against Korean schools. At the end, Shigeru Tokoi, the head of the steering committee of the Human Rights Seminar, suggested what we Japanese must do (Maeda was going in and out to look after the security issue so could not report the details of all the speeches.)

2) Security by Police

On the morning of the 19th, a request for security provision was made to the Kojimachi Branch of the Metropolitan Police Department. The police officer in charge said, "We have already had information about right-wing campaign occurring, so we were going to be there anyway. We will take care of outside of the building. We would like the organizers to take care of inside. Let's have a meeting beforehand."

Police arrived and started to get ready around 3PM. Police and we had a meeting at 4:30PM. We were told that the police would not let the right-wingers enter the building, but a few might still slip in, and that it was our responsibility to eliminate those who disrupted the event. Many police officers were deployed at in front of the building. We were satisfied with the level of security the police provided. After the event, the police officer in charge came and told us that they were leaving, but would still keep an eye on the place as there was a slight possibility that the right-wingers would come back.

The security provided by the Kojimachi Branch of the Police Department was well-controlled and systematic. Their professionalism for protecting the safety of citizens was remarkable. It was unlike the cases in Mitaka and Kyoto.

3) Security at Shigoto Centre

Shigoto Centre, where the meeting was held, looked after the security matter well too. They posted warning posters, their staff members were equipped with handheld microphones and armbands, and the security company increased the staff to five. The employees of the Centre and the security staff patrolled in front of the entrance and in the entrance lobby with firm and controlled manners. They stayed until our meeting was over and made sure everyone left the facility safely. We were so grateful for the devotion that these people showed for our safety.

4) Our own security

At the seminar meeting, we provided our own security measures. The event proceeded smoothly, without the kind of trouble we were expecting. However, several right-wingers did manage to get into the building. There were already a few at 2 PM. By 5 PM, they broke into the hallways and in front of the elevator hall. Some were ranting in the hallway. Two entered the seminar room, but we detected them before the start of the meeting, and asked them to leave. They went back and forth in the hallway, but left without doing anything.

5) Zaitokukai (short for "Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai," meaning "Association of citizens who would not tolerate the privileges of foreign residents." They typically refer to Korean residents in Japan when they refer to "zainichi," or "foreign residents.")

The right-wingers parked their campaign trucks in front of the main entrance of the building, and making loud noises. There were about 30 of them. There were probably about 50 of them in total, including those who were in the building. We were told that they had brought the letter of protest, so we decided to receive it. When the police told the group that we had the intention to receive the letter, they suddenly decided not to submit it. We didn't know what that meant.

6) Gratitude

We had so much support and cooperation from so many people to make this meeting happen. We are grateful for the Kojimachi Branch of Police Department, staff members of Shigoto Centre and their security staff, and those citizens who volunteered to help with security. We appreciate the participants who came from afar on a Sunday evening and shared our determination for not tolerating the Korean school incident. We also apologize for those who could not enter the seminar room. Thanks also to those who sent us the numerous emails of support, and to the people all over the country who condemn this incident and the exclusionist nationalism behind it.

7) What We Should Do Now

There will be a meeting on December 22 held in Kyoto, where the incident happened. There will be activities in Osaka as well.

Racism, racial discrimination and exclusionist nationalism usually manifest in abnormally aggressive behaviours against their targets, and they are at the same time expression of human weakness. The kind of mentality to reaffirm one's sense of superiority by despising, demeaning, and disgracing others is perhaps latent in many of the people. This could explain why the hate crimes committed by this kind of extreme group is effective to a certain extent. If we let this "disease" be as it is now, it might spread across the whole society quickly. We should raise our voices and act so that racism would not prevail.

Thank you everybody.

Akira Maeda
Akira Maeda has also published at "Trying Bush's War Crimes: The International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan"--a still timely article, especially given the Obama administration's escalation of the US war in Afghanistan.

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