Kansai Elec. Power : Thousands in Tokyo Protest Nuclear Restarts
06/29/2012| 02:15pm US/Eastern
TOKYO--Tens of thousands of people protested against the nation's first nuclear reactor restarts in front of the Japanese prime minister's residence Friday, in one of the largest demonstrations since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant last year set off a wave of opposition to nuclear power.
In the 14th demonstration organized by a coalition of anti-nuclear groups outside the premier's residence since March 29, protesters came out in larger numbers to express fierce opposition to a government decision to restart two reactors at the Oi plant in western Japan. The plants are due to fire up again on Sunday.
Organizers estimated the number of participants to be over 100,000. The National Police Agency, which also releases estimates, was unavailable for comment.
After the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant last year, concerns about plant safety and public opposition have kept plants closed for routine maintenance offline, reducing the number of operating plants to zero in early May.
But the looming restart of the two Oi reactors, a decision made by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration amid power shortage concerns, seems to have galvanized support for Friday's demonstration.
The sidewalks in front of the prime minister's office and near the Parliament were overflowing with protesters. Some participants carried simple handwritten signs, while others held aloft elaborate placards reading "No Restarts." For over two hours the crowd kept up a rhythmic cheer of "Against the restarts, against the restarts, against the restarts."
Many protesters brought children. Asako Miyashita, 33, was marching with her three- and five-year old sons for the first time after hearing about the event from her favorite actor on Twitter.
According to the organizers" website, the numbers joining demonstrations outside the prime minister's residence have grown from 300 people to over 45,000 the previous week, helped by people spreading the word on the microblogging site.
Kozo Suzuki, 38, who works for a real estate agent in Tokyo, showed up at the rally in a suit after coming directly from work.
He said he was indignant about the government decision to restart Oi, adding that he joined the rally because "there is no place to express our opinion."
As night fell on the crowds, participants took turns holding a microphone and delivering their views on the issue. A young man, holding the mike in one hand and a hydrangea in another, addressed the prime minister's residence before him.
"How do you think you can protect us?"
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