Ahead of the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump in America, members of Democrats Abroad Japan marched Friday evening to express appreciation to outgoing President Barack Obama.
Despite the chilly weather, about 350 people participated in the event, which was also joined by the Tokyo branch of the Women’s March group, which advocates for the rights of women and sexual and other minorities. The procession marched from Hibiya Park in Chiyoda Ward to Roppongi’s Mikawadai Park.
One marcher, Jennifer Pastore, who has lived in Japan for 10 years, said, “I wanted to show my gratitude as a U.S. citizen for President Obama over the past eight years, and to send a message that our future president should follow President Obama’s example of respecting women and human rights and working for international peace.”
Organizers of the Tokyo march said it was not a protest.
“We’re not doing this as an anti-Trump protest. The politics of personal destruction has been something that has been occurring too much in the United States,” Tom Schmid, the chairman of Democrats Abroad Japan, the official committee for Democrats living in Japan, told The Japan Times.
“As Democrats, I think it’s time for us to restructure our party, take a look at the steps that we need to move forward to have people understand our message better than they did over the last election,” he said.
But given that Trump has made a number of disturbing remarks about women, some participants stressed the importance of women’s rights, holding signs with messages such as “Women’s rights are human rights,” “Harassment free world” and “I should be safe wherever I go.”
“I feel the same way that everybody does here — frustrated and wanting to support every woman around the world,” said a participant who declined to provide her name. She said she found out about the march via the Women’s March Facebook page. “I think it’s important to be visible and to show what you’re for and what you’re against,” she said.
According to its website, the Women’s March on Washington, which will take place on the National Mall on Saturday, is aimed at sending “a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”
Local events organized by volunteers were incubated in all 50 U.S. states and over 50 countries. In Japan, events were held Friday in Tokyo and Osaka.
The Osaka event attracted about 70 people, mostly American and Japanese residents of Kansai, and had a more anti-Trump tone.
Ron Harris, a former registered Republican who splits his time between Arlington, Virginia, and Tokyo’s Minato Ward, said previously in an email that Republican supporters in Japan are likely “peacefully going about their business and abiding the democratic process instead of disrupting it” during the inauguration. He said he would be in Washington for the inauguration.
Staff writer Eric Johnston contributed to this report.