Tatekawa Tent Village’s Call for International Action to Stop the Exclusion of Homeless People (March 6, 2012)

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 (from Japan, 03-3647-4133)
●Koto Ward Civil Engineering Division Head Masato Namiki:
81-3-3647-8454 (from Japan, 03-3647-8454)
●Koto Ward Rivers and Parks Section Head Takeo Araki: 81-3-3647-9287
(from Japan, 03-3647-9287)

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: san-ya [at] sanpal [dot] co [dot] jp 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

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

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
Tel/Fax: 03-3876-7073
E-mail: san-ya [at] sanpal [dot] co [dot] jp
Blog: http://www.jca.apc.org/nojukusha/san-ya/
Twitter: @sanyadesu