Osaka homeless evictions meet resistance

A tent village in Utsubo park, Osaka was evicted this month to make way for an international rose festival.

Submitted by Steven. on February 17, 2006

The following report is from forum posters who participated in defending against the eviction:

We are some disobedients who participated in the defense of the autonomous community at Utsubo park.

Utsubo was attacked by over 600 administration officials, guardsmen, police officers and riot squad in order to clear the park for the city’s upcoming ‘International Rose Festival’. The eviction of Utsubo comes in the context of a wider attack on the most exploited in the Kansai region, with the aim of their institutionalization and control. If the city achieves its aims and determines the eviction to be within a margin of acceptable loss, the communities that have cropped up on streets and parks all around Japan will come under even harsher attack.

This is the perspective under which the park was defended (involving over 150 people from all over the region, country and including some internationals). We came to the park with the following points of unity:

1. The small communities created on roadsides and parks across the country, especially West Japan, represent less a defense against the worst conditions of industrial capitalism like dispossession, poverty and other social ills, addressable by NGOs, Christians and other pity rackets, but are more accurately an attack on this same poverty, a dash for a better life, a life surely closed to the poorest of workers and non-workers if they do not attack and seize it for themselves.

2. Blue tents are by no means vision of a better future; they represent a meager communist process, against isolation and the new estrangement, impressive but still inadequate given the advanced state of their inhabitants’ dispossession. The communities characterize themselves by improvised, bric-a-brac living, by common defense against assault by the police and/or rampaging teens, by camaraderie, sake, relaxation, games and fun. It is no wonder that the squatting poor all over the city organize amongst themselves and easily become close; they are some of the last in a society devoured by the work imperative to question its assumptions. Even the so-called ‘prosperous workers’ have no room for gardens in their concrete boxes!

3. The above forms the basis for our participation in the defense of the parks. We think these perspectives should be generalized along the spectrum of all the exploited, all those who are forced into lives of endless work, spurred by the continual, violent dispossessions of capitalism, which leave few alternatives besides work or die. We say:

Burn your rent contracts!

Occupy social space!

For a beautiful life!

4. It follows that we make no demands to the administration, only of ourselves.

The night before the eviction we gathered in the lightless park. Some raged at the coming dispossession and violence, smashing parts of the park, tearing down the barriers the city had set up to ‘enclose’ the park, to arrest everyone inside. Trash was strewn everywhere ‘the city is trash’. Every obstruction was set up around the park to impede the progress of the riot squads, the park’s sparse forest became a spider-web. Graffiti appeared from nowhere. As soon as the city’s barriers had been taken down they were ripped apart and re-assembled to become barricades against the coming incursions. When the city arrived at three a.m. to attempt to ‘seal’ the park, they were charged and driven back, surrounded and assaulted by a furious mob. The TV cameras made sure to broadcast footage of an anonymous comrade who beat the skull of a city official with a chain (thanks for showing us they can bleed comrade!).

The night went back and forth. A comrade, Y-san, was arrested during a riot squad incursion and charged with assault. We were with the park until the early morning. Tense stand-offs and confrontations lasted for seven hours as the sun broke over the horizon. People going to work, and neighbors, walked by the scene and were inquisitive. The limited numbers of defenders fought for the park until their arrest, gathering for a sit-in around the tents. People scattered red, pink and white paper roses over the ground and their laps. The rose festival was here, it was ours. As the twenty squatters who lived there were pulled to a separate location, there were few left to defend the tents. Silent and shamed public employees tore down the twenty remaining tents as they were denounced and jeered. The flags of unions who had arrived too late fluttered as the blue tents fell. Utsubo’s tiny village was now gone.

At the same time at three other locations around the city, the administration attacked. Bureaucrats charged Ogimachi park, Nishinari park and Osaka-jo Park. With Osaka-jo the city’s planned eviction of five men was known for at least a month and not a surprise. At Ogimachi and Nishinari, the city charged the nearly empty parks as most were heading to work or occupied resisting the city at Utsubo. At both parks a wide swath was fenced off and declared a ‘no-go’ area, bound for construction.

Upon hearing this news after our long night in the park, we understood that the city had declared war on refuges against the onslaught of dispossession, and we felt discouraged at the overwhelming scope of the timed assaults. This lasted a few days until we made it to the parks concerned and found that our comrades had already torn apart the new fences and thrown them in the trash! These comrades understand even clearer now that the city cannot be compromised with. We participate now not because the struggle is ours, it isn’t, but we see how it must become ours; how it cuts across all the divisions of the exploited and affirms the wealth that we find among each other.