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Japan students bring life to anti-war protests

Friday, August 28, 2015 - 01:45

A student group in Japan injects new exuberance into the country's long-greying anti-war protests. Natasha Howitt reports

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In front of Japan's parliament on a Friday night, these newly energised students have gathered to protest. They are the fresh face in Japan's anti-war movement, long-considered to have lost its exuberance. Aki Okuda, a founding member of the group known as 'SEALDs', is here calling for the government to respect the country's pacifist constitution. The group stands for the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy. They are fighting against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to enact a more robust defence policy. In recent decades, Japan's students have been dismissed as lacking political interest. But this reputation might just be changing. Okuda says his generation is feeling a sense of crisis. Opinion polls suggest the SEALDs' manifesto - shunning violence and respecting the constitution - resonates widely in the country, 70 years since the end of the Second World War. One 68-year-old protester said he was pleased to see the students finally using their voice. He said "the only thing us elders can do is pass on the baton." This weekend, SEALDs is expected to come together with other civic activist groups to organise a protest rally. They are hoping to attract 100,000 people. In a clothes shop designing student protest t-shirts, Okuda says it is time for people to act from the bottom-up. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 23-YEAR-OLD FOUNDING MEMBER OF STUDENT EMERGENCY ACTION FOR LIBERAL DEMOCRACY (SEALDS), AKI OKUDA, SAYING: "Since the ruling parties have an overwhelming majority in parliament, we thought we, the sovereign people, must act as individuals," Toppling Abe is considered a long-shot, but a public backlash might make politicians wary of pushing through bolder changes.

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Japan students bring life to anti-war protests

Friday, August 28, 2015 - 01:45