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Occupied: Japanese Nuclear Foes Defy Order to Remove Tents

Occupying the Grounds of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

Common Dreams staff

Standing firm: An antinuclear activist gives a speech Friday evening as he and other protesters refused to take down their tents at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry by the 5 p.m. deadline. YOSHIAKI MIURA

Japanese anti-nuclear protesters defied a government order Friday to vacate the area in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki. Protesters have been occupying the Ministry grounds since Sept. 11, 2011.

The Japan Times reports Saturday:

Antinuclear activists camping out at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry refused to take down their tents Friday despite an order to do so by 5 p.m.

Hundreds of people meanwhile came to see the three tents around the deadline, apparently to show their support for the protesters.

About 10 of the activists have regularly stayed in the tents since September.

METI on Wednesday handed the protesters an order to remove their tents by 5 p.m. Friday because they "continued to use fires even though we repeatedly told them not to," official Hideyuki Maekawa said.

But shortly after 5 p.m., Maekawa told The Japan Times the ministry was not taking any action against the protesters and instead hopes they "will leave voluntarily."

The protesters meanwhile argued they have the right to stay there to continue their demonstration calling for termination of all nuclear power plant operations.

"We feel we have the right to stay here. We understand it is unlawful to stay on somebody's premises without authorization. But this space is a very public place, which gives us right to be here," one of their leaders, restaurant owner Taro Fuchigami, told The Japan Times. [...]

The protesters began camping out at the corner of the ministry Sept. 11. They applied for permission Sept. 13 to pitch their tents there, but METI denied the request Sept. 29, both Maekawa and Fuchigami said. [...]

Maekawa said the protesters have been technically breaking the law since Sept. 29, but METI effectively allowed them to stay because "people can have different opinions."

However, the ministry changed its attitude because the protesters kept using open flames to cook and keep warm despite METI's admonishments.

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