On April 30th 2011, two people got arrested in Miyashita Park, Tokyo. A Rescue Comittee has been created on this site, informing about this incident in both Japanese and English. I quote:
On April 30, the very day of the reopening of Miyashita Park – reconstructed in accordance with the naming rights contract between Nike Japan and Shibuya ward – two comrades (A and B) were arrested, accused of violating the Minor Offenses Act (keihanzai-hou) and interfering with the execution of a public servant’s duties (koumu shikko bougai), respectively.
Around 5.40pm, A, who was in the park along with a number of friends, was falsely accused of violating the Minor Offenses Act and surrounded by around 20 security police officers. Then, minutes past 6pm, just as a group of comrades came rushing to assist him, he was dragged out of the park and arrested. B, who approached the car where A was violently withheld, was also arrested on a fabricated claim of obstructing public duties.
B was involved in a peaceful protest action against the commercialization and nighttime closure of the park, organized by the Coalition against Nike-ification of Miyashita Park (MIKE). It is obvious that these measures are intended to keep out non-paying or disenfranchised visitors who have nowhere else to turn to, and turn the park into a profitable sports facility for the companies involved. As B attempted to rescue A from police abuse, he too was violently arrested and sustained a fracture among other injuries, as did many other comrades as they trying to defend themselves from police violence.
At 11am the same day, the “opening ceremony” of the reopened Miyashita Park took place behind fences and locked gates, surrounded by police battalions and riot control vehicles. Shibuya ward, announcing a “limitation” on ceremony attendants, ignoring requests from the public and mass media, rejoiced with their corporate friends in an otherwise empty park. When the gates opened at noon, those participating in the protest were denied entry on the grounds that the park was no longer a space for public expression of political opinion. Others who went inside the park were subjected to humiliating body checks and searched for banners or other means of political expression – measures unacceptable in any public park.
The two illegitimate arrests that followed show us how different the Miyashita Park is from anything that could be called “public space”. While A was released the following night, B remains incarcerated.
We, the 4/30 Miyashita Park Repression Prisoner Rescue Committee demand the immediate release of our comrade, and denounce the violent repression of the police in service of Nike and Shibuya ward.
I am refering to this because this incident and the consequential debate connects a lot of issues that got so prominent in Japan these days. The discussion about Miyashita Park is going on for more than a year now. Since Nike made an agreement with the Shibuya Ward to rename the public park (to “Nike Park”) and commercialize it that way, people have been protesting peacefully against this plan. Ironically, on the day of the re-opening of “Nike Park” on April 30th, 2011, these two people got arrested, because they were putting up stickers saying “No Nukes” within the now privately owned Miyashita Park. The police was acting violently, as other people tried to interfere these arrestments.
It seems like this incident ties all the current main issues people are trying to discuss about together in a knot: freedom and independence of public spaces, freedom of expression and speech in public space, the anti-nuclear debate, and the debate about the unrightful police and arrestment system in Japan (see this former post).
It is all linked, like a rhizome, and I sincerely hope that the recent rise in people participating in street protests and rallies as well as the ongoing debate in alternative media, blogs and u-stream is able to iniate a public dialogue which leads to awareness and change, eventually.