With a new poll showing majority opposition nationwide, tens of thousands of people surrounded Japan's Parliament in Tokyo on Monday to protest Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's proposed "war legislation" that would allow the country's soldiers to deploy abroad for the first time since World War II.
Holding placards that read "no war" and "scrap war legislation," protesters poured into the streets around parliament after breaking through police lines and barriers.
The massive crowd, which organizers put at 45,000 people, follows mounting protests nationwide, from Nagasaki to Kyoto to Osaka. On August 30, over 120,000 people rallied in Tokyo against the unpopular measures.
"Abe's government is currently not listening to the voices of the people, and many things are being pulled back to the past in a bad way," 69-year-old protester Yasuko Yanagihara told Reuters. "So I can't keep quiet."
Abe is pressing to pass a series of national security bills during parliament's current session, which ends September 27. The package would allow members of the country's Self Defense Force to participate in overseas wars and combat operations of the United States and other allies—even in cases where Japan is not directly attacked. The political move comes amid deepening military ties between Japan and the United States.
"Should this legislation pass, there is a very real danger that Japan could become a party to hostilities and the SDF an army of aggression in violation of international law," the Japanese Association of Scholars Opposed to the Security-Related Bills recently declared in a statement.
The measures have attracted broad opposition from across Japanese society, with students, parents, union members, and peace campaigners taking to the streets. While Monday's protest took aim at Abe's war legislation, the prime minister also faces growing discontent on numerous other fronts, including his push to restart the country's nuclear reactors and a controversial state secrets law passed last year.
Public surveys indicate that the recent mass protests reflect broader public skepticism over the prime minister's latest legislative push.
According to polling information released Monday by Japanese publication The Asahi Shimbun, 68 percent of voters in the country hold that the security legislation in the current parliementary session is unnecessary and 54 percent stand opposed to the bills. In contrast, only 29 percent of voters said they support the legislation.