Please support the Tatekawa Tent Village by sending a message to the Koto Ward office to protest recent evictions.
The situation is dire and your responses could help prevent another eviction.
Please send faxes to the three parties listed below before the end of March.
●Koto Ward mayor Taka-aki Yamazaki: 81-3-3647-4133
●Koto Ward Civil Engineering Division Head Masato Namiki: 81-3-3647-8454
●Koto Ward Rivers and Parks Section Head Takeo Araki: 81-3-3647-9287
Please clearly state your opposition to the evictions taking place at Tatekawa while composing your messages to the relevant authorities. Please send your emails and/or other messages of support for our Tatekawa friends to: firstname.lastname@example.org so that we may present them on our blog.
Also, we do plan to hold a demonstration or other form of action. Once we have decided on a date, we will send out a call for coordinated international action to be held on that day.
Thank you and please stay tuned!
Tatekawa Tent Village’s Call for International Action to Stop the Exclusion of Homeless People
Every promise has been broken. The eviction of homeless persons from Tatekawa River Bed Park (Tatekawa-Kasenjiki Park) here in Tokyo’s Koto Ward was grounded in deceit and discrimination. In just the past few months, the park’s 60 residents have had to face a number of brutal evictions for the sake of local redevelopment and an “environmental clean-up” in line with construction of Tokyo’s newest record-height tower, the Tokyo Sky Tree. The government―which had earlier clearly stated it would “not engage in any forced evictions”―has repeatedly used intimidation to coerce 10 persons living in this park to leave and, just last winter, officials began paperwork for an administrative subrogation (a legal procedure for eviction, see *1 at bottom). People living in tents and other makeshift survival structures in Tatekawa River Bed Park have been targeted by government officials for harassment and eviction despite the fact that, to avoid trouble, they had already moved to parts of the park where redevelopment work had been completed. On January 27th, 100 guards, police officers and public officials were mobilized to install a fence closing off one-third of the public park and persons protesting in a nonviolent sit-in were kicked, punched, and dragged away. The tent village residents are now forced to live in a space enclosed by this fence. The fence prevents them from accessing their source of water and blocks the road they previously traveled with their bicycle trailers (a cart used for collecting newspapers or recycling; an absolute necessity for survival). Koto Ward is proposing nothing less than a death sentence for them.
Undercover police are now patrolling the circumference of the park, and guards hired by Koto Ward are monitoring the lives of village residents 24 hours a day using video surveillance. At the same time, Koto Ward has made discriminatory and harmful public statements maligning them, such as, “Safe use of the park can no longer be assured due to the homeless and these persons calling themselves ‘allies’” and “Illegal occupants have been obstructing construction.” Their intent is to ignite scorn among local residents, if not full-blown hostility, with regard to the presence of homeless persons. In recent months, there has been a spate of attacks on homeless persons, occurring almost as if in step with the ward’s evictions. On December 11, 2011 a group of elementary and middle school boys attacked a homeless man as he was sleeping in a men’s bathroom. They poured water on him, kicked and punched him, pulled him outside and dragged him from a bicycle before proceeding to beat him and ultimately break his ribs. There are also incidents of people throwing rocks at homeless persons or setting fire to the structures that they live in. In the midst of this rash of violent incidents, Koto Ward’s failure to recognize its own actions as violent and, moreover, to believe that they are justified is a serious crime.
On February 8, 2012, a forced eviction was carried out on a single tent. This is in spite of the fact that immediately prior to the eviction the Ward had promised to hold a talk with the victim. It wasn’t until after the eviction that the Ward cancelled its appointment for the talk. It appears that the Ward has no problem using deceit or lies for the sake of its evictions―cases from the past also demonstrate this. The man who had been evicted (we’ll call him “Mr A”) is over 60 years old and not in the best of health. On that morning over 100 police officers (plainclothes and uniformed), guards, and ward officials suddenly surrounded Mr A’s tent and proceeded to hit, drag and carry away friends that were there with Mr A. Authorities then took all of Mr A’s belongings and destroyed the tent structure. Mr A, who had been living peacefully in that tent until that morning, was also grabbed and carried away. He collapsed due to shock and was sent away in an ambulance by ward officials. After being brought to a hospital, he was later found alone and abandoned on the winter streets of Tokyo, approximately 10km from the park. His friends were the ones who found him huddled and cold.
On the day after Mr A was forced out of the park, we went to the Koto Ward office to protest both the eviction and the unilateral cancellation of the agreed-upon talk. However, the members of our group were forcibly ejected from the building and, in the process, one of our younger members was arrested. Upon arriving at the police station, the youth was violently shoved into a jail cell for complaining about the treatment he was receiving and received numerous bruises. He was not given a towel or blanket, and the toilet had no privacy. He was made to eat with his hands and could not sleep as the light was kept on continuously. Among other things, he was cruelly denied soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving items, writing utensils, books and newspapers (brought by friends), cigarettes, and exercise. Ultimately, in response to our nonviolent gathering―organized out of a wish to talk with ward officials―Koto Ward has maintained a “barricade line” of numerous ward employees in front of the ward office. They will not allow us to enter the building or use the car park or bicycle parking facilities―or even the bathroom. More troubling is the fact that they won’t let any of us (or anyone associated with us) into the ward office to take care of necessary applications, registrations, appointments, etc. If they consider us as equals and as human beings, their approach to this matter certainly doesn’t show it.
Under the spread of modern-era capitalism where people are ruthlessly used and tossed aside, certainly we can see why people are living in tents and other makeshift survival structures in public spaces and parks. The “assistance” that the government provides does not actually help support people’s livelihoods but, instead, takes away the very things that make their survival possible. The government fails to allow homeless workers and persons to make their own decisions regarding their lives, they destroy their communities of mutual support, and they deny their culture and trample their dignity. If we, as a society, cannot allow people to pitch a tent to survive then we are, in effect, actively denying them from establishing a space by which they can connect with others. This severe form of discrimination against homeless persons isolates a tremendous number of people and condemns them to suffer and die―away from the public eye. Tents are fortresses for our lives. The tents and survival structures we use are a symbolic, yet real, form of resistance to this society that divides us and insists that the world requires we “kill or be killed”.
It is now 2012 and look at our reality: just one year has passed since Japan’s unprecedented nuclear catastrophe, and Tokyo lies only 200 km from Fukushima. In this very country―where stones are thrown at homeless people, the structures they live in are set ablaze, and they are forced out onto the winter streets―nuclear power is embraced, even exported to other countries, with not a thought of turning to alternatives, even while it means exploiting and slowly killing an underclass of workers by compelling them to engage in ‘hibaku (irradiated) labor’. In Henoko and Takae on Okinawa―an island historically subjected to ethnic discrimination leading to its colonization and the imposition of post-war US military bases―new US military bases are being built to aid in a global mission of making the rich richer while spreading war and poverty. Japan is responsible for trampling on the dignity and justice of women across Asia forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army, denying students at ethnic Korean schools their right to a cultural education, and a surge in fascism and xenophobia. In this country, we continue to see growing cases of violence against people of different ethnicities, nationalities, and backgrounds in our schools, our workplaces, our immigration facilities, and on our streets. This “orderly” country, which embraces the emperor at its center, has been sustained by prejudice and war and economic exploitation, feeding off the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of poor and marginalized people around the world.
But we won’t be silent. We are calling out to our allies seeking freedom and liberation around the world.
Tatekawa River Bed Park is still closed and Koto Ward is now preparing another administrative subrogation. This means that people in the park―while doing their best to get by and continue the fight―are forced to endure the uncertainty and tension of not knowing when an eviction will come. We cannot allow this eviction―or any other―to ever happen. We are taking a stand to protest the shameless acts of violence and prejudice carried out by Koto Ward, Tokyo, and the country of Japan. We demand that the fence be taken down, the evictions be put to an end, and homeless persons’ rights to live be recognized. Today, in a global movement ignited by last year’s Arab democratic revolution, people around the world have begun “occupying” spaces in resistance to the oppression of capitalism. In our parks, people setting up tents/survival structures and making a living by collecting aluminum cans and newspapers and pitching tents have been struggling to continue their resistance since long ago. Today a fence surrounds Tatekawa River Bed Park. It is easy to relate since we are all, in fact, locked in and divided by bigger “fences”, such as national borders, gender discrimination, ethnic discrimination, and class discrimination, among countless other things. Together, however, we can bring down these fences and emerge on the other side.
Let’s act in solidarity to build a world where we can live together!
*1 “Administrative subrogation” is based on Japan’s Act on Substitute Execution by Administration, a national law which stipulates that, “where parties obliged to act do not carry out their duty, the government may have its own parties implement their rightful duties or similarly entrust third parties .” In Japan, it is common practice to consciously use this law to clear and destroy tents/survival structures, possessions, and other necessities belonging to homeless persons―in violation of international law and the Japanese constitution.
March 6, 2012
The Association of Homeless People in the Tatekawa River Bed Park Area
Sanya Sogidan / Han Sitsu Jitsu
Sanya Welfare Center for Day-Laborer’s Association
Address: Sanya Welfare Center for Day-Laborer’s Association
1-25-11, Nihontei, Taito, Tokyo