Language | MORNING ENGLISH

Let's discuss the Black Lives Matter marches in Japan

by Ryusei Takahashi and Eric Johnston

Staff writers

Protesters took to the streets of Tokyo and Osaka over the weekend to speak out against racial prejudice and the violent treatment by police of foreign residents in Japan and minorities in the United States.

In Osaka on Sunday, a peace march sponsored by the Kansai chapter of Black Lives Matter drew nearly 2,000 people, according to local police.

The Osaka march took place during a weekend of protests and demonstrations in the United States and around the world to commemorate George Floyd’s death and condemn police brutality against minority groups.

In Tokyo, two demonstrations were held in front of and near Shibuya Station on Saturday. In one, a march against police brutality made its way through the streets of the famed shopping district. With signs in hand and chanting in unison, more than 500 demonstrators denounced the treatment of a Kurdish man who was reportedly shoved to the ground by a group of Tokyo police officers on May 22.

In a video filmed by his friend, police could be seen shoving the man to the ground after he declined to give them permission to search his car. One officer can later be seen kicking his leg and then, while the man is crouching on the ground, wrapping his arm around his neck.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, however, the Kurdish man overtook a patrol car while driving on a road. He declined to present his driver’s license and began to drive off, at which point police stopped the car and removed him from the vehicle. Traffic was passing by so the police had the man kneel to avoid an accident and sent him home with a warning, the statement said.

The incident sparked an initial protest in Shibuya on May 30 in which one person was arrested. The alleged abuse of the Kurdish man and the murder of George Floyd have become a rallying cry for a number of protests against police brutality in Japan.

At the same time on Saturday, a rally in support of Black Lives Matter took place near the statue of Hachiko in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis two weeks ago after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while two other officers were holding him face down.

The incident involving the Kurdish man occurred just three days before Floyd’s death triggered worldwide protests.

Protesters said racial discrimination and the treatment of foreign people in Japan are topics often avoided by the media and in public discourse. But the alleged roughing up of the Kurdish man, as well as the death of Floyd, may offer residents a chance to reconcile how foreign residents and people of color are treated in the country, they added.

Article first published in the Japan Times on June 7.

Warm up

One minute chat about protests and demonstrations.

Game

Collect words related to discrimination, e.g., minority, race, equality, etc.

New words

1) prejudice: a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience, e.g., “The CEO was prejudiced against women, so no women were managers at the company.”

2) commemorate: to remember, respectfully, an event of significance e.g., “The ceremony was held to commemorate the end of the war.”

3) chant: to recite rhythmically, e.g., “The chanting of prayer echoed throughout the temple.”

Guess the headline

Protesters hit Tokyo and Osaka streets for rallies against r_ _ _ _ _ and police b_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Questions

1) What issues were people marching about?

2) What happened to the Kurdish man?

3) Based on the article, how does the Japanese media cover racial discrimination?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What role should the police play in a society?

2) What do you think about the marches in Japan?

3) What can you do to stop racial discrimination?

Reference

警察という国家権力とマイノリティーの関係性は強者と弱者の関係性そのものであり、一つのきっかけで崩れる危うさを持っています。アメリカでの事件をきっかけに始まった抗議活動は世界に広がり、日本でもデモンストレーションが行われました。コロナ禍で人が集まることへの懸念があるなかでこれだけの人が集まったことは、そこにかける想いの強さを表しているともいえるでしょう。

日本ではニュースに取り上げられることが多いとは言えないこうした人種差別の問題に対して私たち国民ができることはあるのでしょうか。朝英語の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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