• Kyodo

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About 600 Nagoya government officials and security guards descended on eight homeless people living in Shirakawa Park on Monday and tore down their tents, ahead of the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi Prefecture that begins in March.

The expo will be set up in the town of Nagakute, just east of the city limits. Shirakawa Park is in the heart of the city, not far from Nagoya Station.

Supporters of homeless people said the city wants to hide the homeless from public view before tourists start arriving in the prefectural capital for the expo.

They also denounced the forceful measure of removing the eight people’s shelters in the middle of winter.

The roughly 600 Nagoya municipal officials and security guards surrounded the tents at 8 a.m. and gave the eight homeless people living in Shirakawa Park the choice of leaving voluntarily, before tearing down the tents.

The officials set up fences around the site as they tore down the tents.

A homeless man was pulled out of his tent by the guards after refusing to move.

“Is this how Nagoya deals with” the homeless people? one of the supporters asked. “Talks have yet to end.”

One of the homeless said: “I’ve lived here for five or six years. How can they remove the tents just because the expo is drawing near?”

Nagoya Mayor Takehisa Matsubara defended the move in a statement released to the media. He said the city would open a consultation center to help the displaced homeless people find lodgings and jobs.

Nagoya has two municipal shelters for the homeless, with a combined capacity of 350. As of Thursday, 207 people were using the facilities, said Midori Kawano, a city government official.

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