Scandal in Kamagasaki

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sphinx
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Mar 30 2007 04:02
Scandal in Kamagasaki

Hi everyone,

These are bad times in Kamagasaki, and most everywhere else in Osaka. Yesterday, despite a determined struggle by some of the most frustrated and active members of the nojukusha/day laborer community, the city hall managed to erase the ability of people to register their addresses at the Kamagasaki liberation hall and Furusato no ie, which is a lodging house next to triangle park. 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 have register their addresses. But of course the attack by the city has the plain intention of attacking the ability of squatters to live a decent life outside of the insufferable Kamagasaki ghetto, in fact the city's moves can be seen as a re-imposition of rent on a population that had refused it.
This action also comes when TODAY is the regional elections for city council members, i.e. about 2000 people were suddenly disenfranchised of their right to vote (for politicians who despise them). And this is yet to be a controversy in the Japanese news except for the left-leaning Mainichi newspaper.

Now we see clearly what the city's intentions were in arresting 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. With him arrested, a critical crackdown on the ability of day-laborers to live decently has been perpetrated.

The left seems pretty beaten here, they waged a good struggle outside of the city hall, but ultimately have too many illusions about petitioning the city. These are people who do not want to talk, they want to destroy every institution of semi-autonomy available in the city. They are enemies and there is no reason to further expound the illusion that we could get a 'fair shake' by sitting down and talking with them.

I don't want to make any predictions, but I imagine that once word of the depth of this incident reaches people in Kamagasaki, we could see protests or riots even. I have no idea. Or we could see massive dissilusionment and passivity. Most likely it will be the latter.

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Steven.
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Joined: 27-06-06
Mar 30 2007 09:10

Hmmm interesting stuff sphinx. if i get time I might try to write this into a news article? or if you could that would be great. any links/pictures anywhere?

sphinx
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Joined: 25-12-05
Apr 6 2007 03:43

Hi John, I'll write something up this weekend and get it to you.

sphinx
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Apr 8 2007 02:55

Hey John, this is an article that has been featured elsewhere. I've added more information on the deletion of addresses at the site. Also, I was wrong that the addresses were deleted on the day of regional elections, that day was yesterday, a week later.

This is a brief report back on the eviction at Nagai park in Osaka,
Japan. Nagai 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 unforseen by
the tent inhabitants since the national games were coming to Nagai
stadium in 2007. However, the level of events around the eviction
was a bit of a shock. The city entered into an offensive
repressive strategy that centered on arresting leaders of the
squatter movement, holding them in jail and then beginning larger
assaults on parks that would ordinarily not be as vulnerable. Five
arrests were made in September knocking out the major leaderships
of Nishinari kouen and the day laborer's union in Kamagasaki. In
the meantime 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).

In December came 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 kaihou kaikan functions as a mail and
coordination center for those living on the streets and allows them
to function like human beings, get mail and receive work since you
need an address to do that, and of course, to collect welfare and
social services. The ward office had long known that the kaihou
kaikan had been a registrar for those without a fixed address and
thus the raid was blatantly political, meant to crush the basic
self-defense institutions of thousands of the jobless proletariat.

In late February, some of the squatter-affiliated organizations in Kamagasaki
occupied the city hall plaza with a squatting protest, living in the plaza for
a week at a time with 20 to 30 people. The police and secret police came
out in large numbers to intimidate those protesting, but two of these protest
actions were successfully completed and many people around the city hall
were made aware of the impending action by the city. Despite a fierce protest
campaign drawing in many people, and despite a victory in court which declared
that the address removal could go on but would have to be delayed two weeks to
'be fair', negotiation sessions granted by the city brought only meager concessions
or none at all. And so on March 29th, a week before the ward elections for
Nishi-nari (in which Kamagasaki is located), 4000 registered addresses were
deleted by the rampaging administration, which is absolutely at war with the
semi-autonomy of the poorest workers.

Return to late January and the same eviction process is being
undertaken at Nagai as we saw last year, the procession of legal
paperwork, the posting of 'notices' and 'warnings' etc. Many
people organized to do what they could to oppose the eviction of
the tent village and also record what would happen when the police
came. From the start, the attitude was unfortunately defeatist and
for that reason problematic. Standing up in the face of the
national games must have been pretty intimidating because by late
January, the Nagai dwellers were still demanding 'to speak with the
administration', as if exposing the contradictions of the lying and
rampaging administration that had already evicted so many like them
would stop anything. This sort of political innocence is dangerous
and only instills illusions. The city workers are men employed to
destroy the autonomy of these workers and unemployed, who were
brought to Osaka by the economy, but have learned to refuse the traditional
worker and welfare accommodations (which are characterized by high
daily rent). Nagai's struggle against eviction was launched thus
with a stubborn adherence to negotiation
despite everyone's obvious pessimism that the inhabitants could not
stop the inevitable.

Tent inhabitants and their supporters managed despite this to
organize some very creative resistance to the eviction, and a model
that could serve in future evictions. On January 21st, a smaller
version of the yearly Nagai festival was organized. Bands played,
heaps of art and beautiful banners prepared. Food was dished out,
everyone got drunk. Discussions were held and speeches were made.
A beautiful day that encapsulated most everything that made the
Nagai community the powerful rock that it had been for almost ten
years. 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. I was similarly
optimistic that the 'festival' nature of the resistance and its
humorous, ironic potential could potentially communicate the
nojukusha struggle in a different way from the park evicted last
year, which for all of its flaws, was until the end a committed defense of the
tents.

Before the day of the eviction we had organized recording crews to
capture all angles of the park under attack, including tents
located far away from the target zone (which had no legal
obligation to leave, but were feared to come under attack on the
same day). We also posted people at parks around the city to
counter/record the destructive path of the administration, which if
you remember, unexpectedly struck in four parks at once during the
eviction last year (Osaka-jo, Utsubo, Ogimachi and Nishinari).

The day of the eviction came and I was posted at the park nearest
to my heart. We woke up at 5 a.m. in the cold winter park to the
sound of recyclers stacking cardboard and dogs pitter-pattering
across the cement. We held a lookout until 7:30 when one of us
left to go to Nagai. Myself and my other comrade stayed until
about 10 when it was obvious that the administration was not coming
(and this was essential since two comrades from Nagai had moved
into tents in that park, and their tents were vulnerable). When I
made it down to Nagai, the resisters (approx. 150) had gathered around the main tent/stage
and were surrounded by security guards, police and city hall
officials, although there was an ongoing rush of these employees
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. This peripheral action kept a good amount of
the security forces distracted from their main task (even though
they numbered around 500). People were periodically
carried out from the sit-in who had become 'unruly' within the
enclosure. The videos so far sent around incidentally do not convey
even the slightest sense of the scope of the event, which hundreds
of people were watching with a massive media presence.

As the security forces got closer, the Nagai nojukusha launched
into their 'oshibai', a hilarious play, whose plot is um...hard to
describe but basically is about a bunch of adventurers who
encounter each other and interact. At one point the main female
lead threw a bunch of rubber balls and paper
clips at all the guards, which bounced off their helmets. Amidst
all the conflict and chaos, watching the play was truly surreal.
It was like some mad sanity in a situation where people were eating
each other.

At precisely 11:40 the guardsmen rushed the sit-in and began
pulling everyone up at once. The scene was very chaotic and I was
unable to see everything that was happening, but according to a
comrade of mine afterward, many of the people performing the sit-in
then GOT UP ON THEIR OWN and began exiting the zone with locked
arms, in other words abandoning the defense of the site.
Afterwards this was justified with the trop that 'no one was
arrested'. Well, if we hadn't put up any resistance at all, no one
would have been arrested either right? This couldn't have been
everyone because many people were putting up a
real fight against removal, but it shocked me to hear how much the
commitment to intransigence was really just a commitment to
spectacle. Just as problematic, as people began to be ejected
from the eviction area many of us tried to fight back against the
displacement and being pushed out, only to be basically ORDERED by
the kamagasaki patrol to ' '. Later we
understood that their reasoning at that point was that if people
continued to fight, the police would not allow us to get home. A few people
were not satisfied with this and kept fighting only to be corralled
into an absurd 'scrum' in which everyone started dancing around
real 'militant' and then doing the typical raised fist,
denunciation thing. Wow, what a disappointing end.

I can't really address the impact of Nagai in such a short report,
but needless to say it is huge. What is also significant is that
the entire strategy behind resisting the eviction was media-
oriented and that, after viewing much of the media afterward
although the coverage is not BAD per se, the shibai (play) is not
mentioned anywhere and neither is the resistance put up portrayed
in the least. These efforts were whited out.

What are the lessons? That 'using the media' is almost always
futile. That no matter how beautiful and important the festival-
esque resistance at Nagai park, that creating a false impression of
resistance for the wider population (and the wider class), and
indeed producing a spectacle in which some people are stage
managers, retards resistance because it channels it into sound
bytes, gives it a representative and manages to encapsulate what is a
multi-faceted, widespread NON-SPECIFIC struggle into a 'social
problem'. No matter what was accomplished at Nagai, the ongoing
evictions in central Osaka over the past year have robbed over 200
people of their improvised homes, some of whom now live on the
street. The others are back in the exploitative 'worker hotel'
nightmare. In this sense, the defeat at Nagai could have been
worse, but definitely demands a re-assessment of the isolation of
the nojukusha (squatters) and the tendencies which demand attention by
the media and the state.