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TOKYO---Mothers holding their children s hands
stood in the sprinkling rain, holding up anti-war
placards, while students chanted slogans against
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his defence policies
to the beat of a drum.
Japan is seeing new faces join the ranks of protesters
typically made up of labour union members and graying
leftist activists. Yesterday, tens of thousands filled the
streets outside Tokyo s parliament to rally against new
security legislation likely to become law in Septem-
"No to war legislation!" Scrap the bills now!" and
"Abe, quit!" they chanted in one of the summer s
biggest protests. Their cries are against a series of bills
that would expand Japan s military role under a rein-
terpretation of the country s war-renouncing consti-
In Japan, where people generally don t express political
views in public, such rallies have largely diminished
since the often violent university student protests in
the early 1960s. Anti-nuclear protests after the 2011
Fukushima disaster also petered out.
Smaller protests were held elsewhere across the
nation yesterday. The demonstrations started earlier
this year but grew sharply after July, when Abe s ruling
party and its junior coalition partner pushed the leg-
islation through the more powerful lower house despite
vocal opposition from other parties---and media polls
showing the majority of Japanese opposed the bills.
Whether the protests momentum signals wider
social change remains to be seen. They could die out
once the summer holiday is over and the legislation
is passed, as is widely expected.
But grass-roots groups among typically apolitical
groups such as mothers and students---aided by social
media---appear to be growing.
A group called Mothers Against War started in July
and gained supporters rapidly via Facebook. It collected
nearly 20,000 signatures of people opposed to the leg-
islation, which representatives tried unsuccessfully to
submit to Abe s office last Friday.
"I m afraid the legislation is really going to reverse
the direction of this country, where pacifism was our
pride," said a 44-year-old architect who joined Sunday s
rally with her 5-year-old son. She identified herself
only as A. Hashimoto, saying politics was still a sensitive
topic among parents at her son s kindergarten.
"I feel our voices are neglected by the Abe govern-
ment," she said.
The bills would permit the Self Defence Force to
engage in combat for the first time since World War
II in cases of "collective defence," when Japan s allies
such as the US are attacked, but Japan itself is not.
The upper house is currently debating the bills, and
is expected to approve them sometime next month.
But even if it doesn t, the legislation will be sent back
to the lower house for a second vote that, if passed,
would make it law.
Abe s government argues that the changes are needed
for Japan to respond to a harsher security environment,
including a more assertive China and growing terrorist
threats, and to fulfill expectations that it will contribute
more to global peacekeeping efforts.
The bills are based on the Abe Cabinet s decision
to alter the interpretation of Japan s constitution, drawn
up by the occupying US military after World War II,
and not the constitution itself, which prohibits the
country using force for purposes other than its own
Dozens of legal experts and other academics have
questioned the bills constitutionality, saying they go
beyond what s written in the charter. (AP)
An anti-government demonstrator
wearing a headband that reads in
Portuguese "Dilma out, impeachment
now," takes pictures of a giant inflatable
in the likeness of Brazil's former
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in
prison stripes, during a protest in Sao
Paulo, Brazil, Sunday. A convicted black
market money dealer who turned
state's evidence told lawmakers on
Tuesday that Brazilian President Dilma
Rousseff and her predecessor, former
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, knew
of the sprawling corruption kickback
scheme that has engulfed state-run oil
company Petrobras. AP PHOTO
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