Policing “Violence” in the Aftermath of Japan’s 1968

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 10:30 AM
Hampton Room (Omni Shoreham)
Takemasa Ando, Musashi University
This paper focuses on the contest between Japanese New Leftists and the police in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. I examine how an image of “violent” protests was produced and how it influenced the movements and civil society in the period and thereafter. Direct action, such as sit-ins or lockdowns, was a popular part of protest repertoire for movements in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s, the police, threatened by such mobilizations, developed a strategy to produce a negative image of direct action in two arenas: in the community and in the media. The police urged residents to work together with them for public security and build a surveillance system in communities. The police also sought to create an image of themselves in the media as guardians of citizens from brutal activists.

Examining these cases, this paper historicizes how the police turn toward a battle over images in the media stigmatized New Left direct action. I consider the outcomes of contestations over the meanings of violence between the police and New Leftists. The damage suffered to the image of the New Left in the media and the advantages accrued to the image of police as protectors of society resulted in a more general aversion to direct action. The antipathy to direct action has remained in the discourse of civil society in Japan, particularly in the media, since the 1970s. This aversion has also made a wide range of activists reluctant to take confrontational direct action even when it was proved to be an effective political strategy.

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