Shinjuku homeless march on city hall

More than 250 homeless people living at JR Shinjuku Station and their supporters held a demonstration parade late May 1, claiming they are laborers living outside their homes.

The participants gathered at a park near the station at 1 p.m., then began a march toward the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices, where they handed a statement of proposal addressed to Gov. Yukio Aoshima. In the statement, they asked that the metropolitan government stop its efforts to forcibly remove homeless people and their cardboard dwellings from the station’s underground concourse, and that it offer them temporary housing as well as simple jobs.

The demonstrators also chanted “Give us our buddies back!” when they passed the Shinjuku Police Station, where three of their supporters have been held since early this week. The three were arrested on suspicion of battery and other charges while protesting the daily patrol carried out by police and security guards every morning that attempts to pressure the homeless to leave, police say.

Kazuaki Kasai, a supporter of the homeless and the leader of the demonstration, said evicting homeless people by force is not a clever policy and is “legally wrong. This is the third time we have held this annual demonstration on May Day. The number of participants is increasing every year,” Kasai said.

Atsushi Tokita, a participant who has spent four months in the underground concourse, said after the demonstration: “Even if we are expelled, we have no place to go. I’m over 50 and cannot be hired as a day laborer any more. I haven’t the skill to get other jobs. All we can do is get together and oppose this expulsion plan.”