Protest: Emergency camp for homeless in Tokyo evicted

The below statement describes Shibuya Ward’s recent suppression of a “Winter Struggle” event providing essential support to persons on the streets over the New Year’s holiday (Dec 29 – Jan 3).

Statement of Protest


We, the Steering Committee for Shibuya’s Winter Struggle (hereinafter, the Committee), provide support to people on the streets in Shibuya each year over the New Year’s holiday—a difficult time for persons experiencing poverty and homelessness due to the harsh cold of winter and the closure of public offices. We are writing to protest Shibuya Ward’s forced eviction of our collective on December 29, 2013 from Miyashita Park, the base for our Winter Struggle—and formerly a place of rest and refuge for persons on the streets. Miyashita Park, once open to the public at no cost 24 hours a day, now operates as a sports park; It is only open between 8:30am and 10:30pm and requires admission for its various facilities—the foreseeable outcome of its quasi-privatization under the Shibuya Ward government and Nike Japan, a transformation that many of us in Shibuya and around the world collectively fought for years.The Committee was established in early December with the aim of protecting the lives and well-being of persons experiencing poverty and homelessness. On December 9, we confirmed with Shibuya Ward’s Welfare Division and Parks Division that government assistance such as shelter and welfare services would be largely unavailable over the holiday from December 29 to January 3. We informed them of our plans to provide emergency alternative support to persons on the streets and asked that they not interfere. We began the Winter Struggle on December 28 by setting up tents in Miyashita Park for people to sleep in from 10:30pm to 8am. We also made arrangements for a full week of meal preparations, street patrols, medical and welfare assistance
consultations, and other activities to last through January 5.

However, on the evening of December 28, over 10 uniformed and plainclothes officers from the Shibuya and Tokyo Police Forces, respectively, acting on a report from Feed (the company entrusted with management of Miyashita Park) intervened and threatened us with a warning for unlawful trespass. On December 29 at 8:30 pm, multiple police vehicles assembled and a police unit forced its way into Miyashita Park with flood lights, attempting to intimidate and expel us. Shortly thereafter, approximately 20 Shibuya Ward officers in helmets arrived and Chief Kuroyanagi of the Civil Engineering and Cleaning Division first warned and then ordered us to leave by 10:30pm and remove all tents and properties from the premises. We asked what legal grounds they had, and what the five persons needing tents should do (one of whom had been refused inpatient care in a hospital despite a hairline fracture of his skull), but they refused to respond and simply repeated their orders. A number of homeless and non-homeless allies from various parts of Tokyo rushed to gather in solidarity in the park and, at 10:30pm, Shibuya Ward began the forced eviction with approximately 100 police officers at the frontlines. At 2am, we were thrown out of the park into the
cold. We are outraged by this literally murderous act by Shibuya Ward and the Shibuya police.

Shibuya Ward, in fact, prohibited use of not only Miyashita Park, but also Mitake Park and the north side of Jingu-dori Park between December 30 and January 5 in the name of Shibuya Mayor Kuwahara. On December 30, we reclaimed our tents and property under the watch of Ward officers and Shibuya police, and relocated to the only public park open all night: the south side of Jingu-dori Park. We resumed the Winter Struggle and continued successfully through January 5. During this time, passers-by and people from all across Japan shared their indignation regarding Shibuya Ward’s actions. Many also expressed support for our Struggle by sending blankets, heating pads, food, and other donations.

The Winter Struggle reached its end on January 5, but winter itself is not yet over. We will continue future Winter Struggles and the fight to survive while maintaining solidarity with everyone experiencing homelessness around the world.

We protest the cruelty of Shibuya Ward and the Shibuya police behind this forced eviction and the closure of public parks in the evening. The purpose of our Winter Struggle is to make up for the egregious lack of public assistance available to persons on the streets during the New Year holiday. We demand that there be no further interference in our activities for protecting the survival of persons experiencing poverty and homelessness.

January 6, 2014
The Steering Committee for Shibuya’s Winter Struggle 2013/2014