→These are bad times in Kamagasaki, the day labor district in Osaka, and
most everywhere else in the wider city. This December, there was an
unprecedented police raid on the Kamagasaki liberation hall (kaihou
kaikan), with the police investigating how it was possible that over 4000
people were registered to the hall's address. Actually the liberation hall
functions as a mail and coordination center for squatters and homeless
people, allowing them to function like human beings, get mail and receive
work, and of course, to collect welfare and social services, since you need
an address to do that. For years, the local city hall had used the
liberation hall as a registrar for those without a fixed address with no
problems, and thus the unprecedented raid was blatantly political, meant to
crush the basic self-defense institutions of thousands of the jobless
proletariat. Despite a determined struggle by us at the Kamagasaki patrol,
other groups and some of the most active members of the squatter/day
laborer community, the city hall managed to cancel the ability of homeless
or squatting people to register their addresses at these two major working
class institutions. In so doing, anywhere from 2000 to 3000 day-laborers,
squatters and homeless have lost their rights to welfare, to work AND to
vote. Oh no! Says the city, they haven't. All they have to do is register
at a doya (worker hotel) and stay in it for half the year and they can
register their addresses. This of course means that these workers suddenly
have to pay rent for half the year to live even a decent life in the
Kamagasaki ghetto.

 →This barbarous action by the city hall is a punctuation in recent years
of repression against day laborers, squatters and homeless in western
Japan. Last September for instance, Mr. Inagaki, the head of the
day-laborer's union in Kamagasaki and also the chief organizer and in-title
owner of the Kamagasaki Liberation hall was arrested and is still being
held in prison for the supposed crime of interfering with a police action
against squatters in the west part of the city. He was not alone. Five
others were arrested at the same time in a coordinated wave of arrests, all
veteran (literally, elderly) members of the squatter resistance movement in
Osaka. Two of these men are still in jail and the other two spent 7 months
in jail without seeing trial. With Inagaki arrested, the city hall was
able to launch a critical crackdown on the ability of day-laborers to live
a decent life that made use of the Kamagasaki liberation hall.

 →The city does not want to talk, they want to destroy every institution
of semi-autonomy available in the city. They are enemies whose methods have
become harsher and harsher.

 →Let's go further back. In January 2006, all of the people living in
tents at Utsubo Park (about 20), and one part of Osaka castle Park, two
mid-city parks, were targeted for eviction. Made homeless by unemployment,
these men and women have put up tents in parks and on street sides, earning
their livings working jobs such as can and magazine collection, waste
removal etc.; they lived on their own strength with the help of neighbors.
We opposed this eviction with over 200 allies and managed to significantly
delay its execution. However, on the day of eviction over 600 city
officials including bureaucrats, guardsmen and police were able to evict
the community at Utsubo and a part of Osaka-jo park. Both of these
evictions were carried out with the proclaimed purpose of putting on,
respectively, the 'World Rose Convention 2006' and the 'National City
Greenery Fair in Osaka'. But these pretexts mask the real attack against
lower class squatters, day laborers and unemployed, who refuse to live
their lives in institutions.

 →The city's targets are always the self-organized communities of
squatters. In Osaka city alone, at least 200 homeless people die on
roadsides annually, making the necessity for the tent villages obvious.

 →Nagai park was a large gathering point for day-worker squatters who
pitched tents on its wide grasses throughout the 1990s. The squatting
population was largely evicted in 2000 only to rebuild a smaller tent
community, which was unique in its efforts to build links to other parts of
society including the wider community living around the park, children and
the disabled. The city hall had been coming around since around November
telling people to get out of their tents. This action wasn't unforeseen by
the tent inhabitants since the national games were coming to Nagai stadium
in 2007. However, by now the city had entered into an offensive strategy of
repression that centered on arresting leaders of the squatter movement,
holding them in jail and then beginning larger assaults on parks that were
not ordinarily so vulnerable. While the five squatters and supporters were
in jail, evictions of small parks all over the south side of the city took
place, including Tennoji park (in central Osaka) and many around Nihonbashi
(the electronics district).

 →We managed to organize some creative resistance to the eviction. On
January 21st, a week before the eviction, we helped organize a smaller
version of the yearly Nagai festival. Bands played, heaps of art and
beautiful banners were prepared. Food was dished out, everyone got drunk.
Discussions were held and speeches were made. A great day that summarized
the uniqueness of the Nagai community: community support, horizontal ties,
links with disabled communities, friendships with children, a
food-producing garden in southern Osaka etc. These things made Nagai one of
the most important semi-autonomous locations in the city.

 →On the day of eviction, we and other resisters (approx. 150) gathered
around the main tent/stage and were surrounded by security guards, police
and city hall officials, although there was an ongoing rush of security
guards from one side to the other as people tried to storm in to join the
defenders. Those trying to rush in were kicking barricades down, smashing
them etc.

 →As the security forces got closer, the remaining Nagai residents
launched into their 'oshibai', a hilarious play, whose plot centers around
a bunch of adventurers who encounter each other. This play had been
performed many times before to great acclaim, but at precisely 11:40 the
guardsmen rushed the sit-in and began pulling everyone up at once. The
play could not be finished amid the chaos of eviction, and by noon the city
hall was tearing apart tents and belongings of the Nagai park squatters.


 →Osaka City has proposed 'choices' such as the Osaka castle Park shelter
and the 'Independence Aid' center in exchange for homeless comrades leaving
their tents in both parks. However, these are not choices. The living
environment of the shelters is extremely rough, individual space does not
even fill two mats (2.5m by 2.5m), with thin partitions, privacy is
non-existent and the permitted amount of belongings is limited to several
pieces of cardboard. Only a single meal of white rice is provided as a
guaranteed meal for the day. In the end, residents cannot eat without
gathering aluminum cans and people's living conditions decrease markedly
compared to their lives while living in tents.

 →Once admitted to the shelter, the tent which one had been living in is
torn down by the park administration and for those who inevitably regret
their choice, there tents are gone and they are essentially kicked to the
roadside. Despite the obstinate 'persuasions' of the park personnel, the
number of people entering the shelter is only a third of those living in
tents. This is no mystery to us.


 →Regardless of these harsh conditions, regardless of the arrests, and
even having a member of ours arrested at the WTO in Hong Kong, we are not
crushed, the reverse, we are still very active. We will not allow this
crisis to end as it wants to, instead this is a good opportunity to
strengthen the ties between us and open the future together, to fight
together until the end.

We appeal for your assistance!


This is very simple and should not take much time. Please send messages

Mr.Junichi Seki
Mayor of Osaka City
1-3-20, Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka-si, Japan
Fax: +81-6-6202-6950

Western Park Office
Fax: +81-6-6441-6797
2-1-4, Utsubohonmachi, Nishi-ku, Osaka-si, Japan

Eastern Park Office
Fax: +81-6-6943-6877
3-11, Osakajyo, Chuou-ku, Osaka-si, Japan

City of Osaka Chicago Office
c/o JETRO Chicago
401 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 660, Chicago, Illinois
60611 USA
Tel: 1-(312)832-6002
Fax: 1-(312)832-6066

City of Osaka Dusseldorf Office
c/o JETRO Dusseldorf
Konigsallee 58, 40212 Dusseldorf, Germany
Tel: 49-(211)1360241
Fax: 49-(211)326411

Bureau de Representation
de la Ville d'Osaka a Paris 29, rue des Pyramides, 75001 Paris, France
Tel: 33-(1)4015-9366
Fax: 33-(1)4015-9172
posted by kamapat at 14:32 | English