Asia What it's like joining a Black Lives Matter protest in Tokyo

What it’s like joining a Black Lives Matter protest in Tokyo

Some 3,500 people gathered at the Yoyogi Event Plaza, banners in hand, and expressed solidarity for multiple causes such as ending racism in Japan and highlighting the issues faced by black gay people and women throughout history

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Tokyo – “Wow, the police are the ones directing. Damn, Japan. We’re gonna be ok,” said a foreigner who joined the Black Lives Matter peaceful march on Sunday (June 14). A writer for The Independent got a first-hand experience in joining the march.

If there’s one word to describe the protest that occurred in Tokyo for the BLM movement, it’s “organised.” From the meeting point, where event coordinators with megaphones would inform newcomers to fall in line, to the supporters actually following orders and queuing properly, the march of about 3,500 people was a success. While the number of people congregating in one place could be a cause of worry at the time of a pandemic, each person was required to wear a face mask to join the protest.

The rest of the protestors queueing for their turn

Locals and foreigners alike gathered at Yoyogi Event Plaza at 2:45 pm, banners in hand, and expressed solidarity for multiple causes such as ending racism in Japan and highlighting black gay people and black women’s lives and the sacrifices they have made  throughout history.

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Perhaps the main difference between the protests in the United States and Tokyo would be the enforcement officers’ role in the whole thing. The police may be seen as aggressive in the US, but in Japan, they served as escorts. There were at least 80 officers who walked with each batch and ensured everyone’s safety. More were scattered at key points such as busy intersections. Hence, the initial reaction of a foreigner who said: “they were gonna be ok.”

The police directing the first batch

First batch of protestors circling back to Yoyogi Event Plaza

At least 80 police officers escorted the protestors

The police on standby for the next batch

The protestors escorted by the police

The Government allowed the group to march around Tokyo’s famous spots such as Shibuya Crossing and Harajuku Station, garnering applause and support from onlookers.

Throughout the walk, the protestors shouted: “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace” in unison. As each batch circled back to the starting point, they were greeted with applause from those who went ahead.

At the end of the event, the organisers talked about the issues and thanked everyone who came. “If you’re not black and you’re here, we thank you,” said one organiser.

“If you’re not black and you’re here, we thank you,” said one organizer.

At the end of the event, the organizers talked about the advocacies and thanked everyone who came.

“We love you” was chanted to one another for a while before the event officially closed and everyone dispersed in different directions.

“With racism still rampant here in Japan, protests like these play an essential role in reminding everyone that racism should not be tolerated. The Black Lives Matter peaceful march brought together like-minded individuals fighting for the same cause. Black lives matter today, tomorrow, and forever. This call for action does not end after these protests finish and social media presence wanes. This call for action should continue until change happens.” –  said Samantha, 26, Sales and Marketing.

“Samantha” 26, Sales and Marketing

“Being surrounded by thousands of like-minded supporters, you can’t help but feel the energy this protest has been trying to convey since day one. And despite all the people, not one violent act by both protesters and spectators. This has been by far a truly peaceful BLM Protest I’ve been in.” – said Lawrence, 29, an engineer.

“Lawrence”, 29, Engineer

Gallery:

Four paws for black lives

Photo credit: Lorenzo Orosa

Photo credit: Lorenzo Orosa

Photo credit: Lorenzo Orosa

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