The Black Lives Matter movement found a foothold in Tokyo as thousands of protesters marched in the capital on Sunday to protest racism and police brutality, and spread awareness of racial discrimination in Japan amid a wave of demonstrations worldwide following the killing of George Floyd in the United States.
Organizers said more than 3,500 protesters marched from Yoyogi Park, down Omotesando and through Shibuya's scramble crossing, while holding signs written in Japanese and English that said "Racism is the real pandemic" and "Black pride, enough is enough!"
“First and foremost, we want to stand in solidarity with the people who are protesting in the United States right now,” said Sierra Todd, 19, the main organizer and founder of Black Lives Matter Tokyo. “The other goal of the march is to start paving the way to introduce conversations about racism here in Japan.”
This is the third consecutive weekend of protests against police brutality and racism in Tokyo. Two weeks ago, hundreds marched through Shibuya Ward to protest the controversial treatment by Tokyo police officers of a Kurdish man of Turkish origin. The following week, two protests were held in the capital: one to speak out against the incident with the Kurdish man and another to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S.
The march on Sunday, however, was the first to be organized by a local branch of BLM in the capital.
Black Lives Matter Tokyo was founded June 1 by a half-dozen youths — most of whom, including Todd, are students at Temple University in Tokyo. In less than two weeks, the group has gained the support of several thousand followers on social media.
BLM Tokyo has started recruiting designers, photographers and other black creatives in Japan to create a print publication. Other members are planning to organize live music performances.
Moving forward, Todd hopes BLM Tokyo can change the perception of black people in Japan by organizing further demonstrations, creating a diverse community of people and making their work more visible.
“Nobody wants to attack Japan or attack Japanese people or demonize them. … If you’re not on the receiving end of these kinds of experiences, you’re not necessarily going to see what’s wrong or how they hurt people,” Todd said. “I would encourage (Japanese) to listen to what other people are saying, and I would encourage them to take small steps, to open up a little bit to what the people who have experienced these things are expressing.”