Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Japanese Take Manhattan, Protest Nukes

As it's the season for peace I thought I'd bump this one to the top of the queue.
Yesterday (May 2010) I marched in my umpteenth protest march. This one was organized by United for Peace and Justice and took place in mid-town Manhattan, starting in Times Square and ending up near the United Nations building. As things would have it, this march out to be my first Japanese anti-nuke demonstration. It wasn't planned by the Japanese, nor was it planned to be Japanese, though Japanese organizations were intimately involved, e.g. the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (RENGO), and Mayors for Peace, an international organization started by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I expected this demonstration be like every other protest march I've been in these past few years – though, not, for example, on the scale of the March 2003 anti-war protest, the one that didn’t prevent the invasion of Iraq under the pretext that it harbored nukes. That is, I expected to be marching with mostly North American descendants of European immigrants, but with the visible presence of the Japanese and Koreans, among others.

But the North American Euros didn't show up, maybe because to do so would have been to repudiate the 8-year rolling disaster that was the Bush presidency. Or maybe they thought that we didn’t have to hold Obama’s feet to the fire on all this hope he’s been offering us. Whatever. The upshot is that Japanese out-numbered everyone else by three or four to one.

And they were insistent about Article 9 of their constitution, the constitution we gave them after WWII. Article 9 forbids the Japanese state from engaging in warfare. There was an exhibit about the article in the meeting area near the United Nations building and many Japanese were giving out decals and packages of facial tissue (a common promotional item in Japan) promoting Article 9. As you might have expected, there was also at least one Japanese in a Doraemon costume. Pop culture is pop culture, it’s everyone, and certainly at anti-nuke protests.

Article 9 Decal

I was there with The New York Path to Peace performing "Peace Now", a band of guerilla musicians dedicated to making music for good causes. At one point a block’s worth of marchers were singing "Peace Now!" along with us. Of course we didn’t know it – we were told by one of the dozen or so people who hooked up with us along the way – because we were in the middle of the crowd playing our keesters off. The most gratifying moment, however, came when a Japanese group passed us (we were playing from the sidewalk at that point) singing “We Shall Overcome.”

We joined them. Of course.

That’s music.

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