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  • Eyewitness report of Shinjuku’s overreaction to NJ Hallowe’en revelers on Yamanote

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 1st, 2009

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    Eyewitness report of Shinjuku’s overreaction to NJ Hallowe’en revelers on Yamanote

    Last night the whole city was on fire. So many Japanese dressing up,
    Roppongi and especially Shibuya looked like cute horror houses, and
    there was this strong (positive) tension in the air, that makes Tokyo
    nights so special…

    But there was one exception to the party: Shinjuku JR minami-guchi,
    where, in previous years, hundreds halloweeners had gathered to start
    the party on a specific train of the Yamanote line. This year, there

    – at least two hundred cops all over the station.
    – several dozen of cops inside, blocking the staircase leading to the
    Shibuya direction platform
    – cops blocking every costumed person from entering the station
    – per every stop of the Yamanote, there were at least half a dozen
    cops on the platform
    – in the train, there was at least three different Japanese with video
    cameras with the specific purpose of documenting gaijin atrocitiies
    – and a premier for this year, there were at least more than 100
    PROTESTERS outside the kaisatsu, holding up signs against – I didnt
    really come close enough to see against what, but when we got close
    the kaisatsu from inside (entered through another exit), they were
    shouting “Hiroshima, Nagasaki” at me (!) and Dan, almost as if they
    had waited for somebody to show up to be yelled at. I yelled “Dresden”
    back, but then already the cops were pushing us back. Anyway, why
    should we play their spiel….
    This whole anti-gaijin thing was apparently organised by 2chan.

    And here is the punchline: there were apparently almost no gaijin or
    other people there to do the Yamanote Halloween, definitely no more
    than 10 people who seemed to be there explicitly for that.

    Some people got on the train in Ikebukuro (nice idea), but the party
    essentially consisted of me and Dan drinking a bottle of Denki Bran.
    the guys with the camera, apparently out of frustration of lack of not
    finding anything illegal, finally shouted at us – “it is not allowed
    to drink on the train”. I took their picture too, and they left in
    Nishi-Nippori. we had upheld the tradition, so in Nippori we got off
    the train and went to far more pleasant areas…

    So far, nothing in the news or on youtube. if anything, it was those
    protesters who were loud, aggressive, and wild. and stupid.

    Sincerely, N.

    39 Responses to “Eyewitness report of Shinjuku’s overreaction to NJ Hallowe’en revelers on Yamanote”

    1. Pete Says:

      There are other cities with loop train lines right? Used to live in Osaka and I think they do the same thing there.
      Chicago has a loop line doesn’t it? I wonder if people do similarly there.
      And… I wonder how the cops deal with it…

      Oh, I forgot, it’s probably illegal to drink on the train in Chicago.

      Hey wait a sec… is it REALLY illegal to drink on the trains here in Tokyo??
      I’ve done it before but just because I was thirsty… water, beer, gingerale…
      I’ve seen the locals do it too… I thought it was cool just as long as we didn’t barf or spill our drinks on anyone… :-)

    2. Behan Says:

      “it is not allowed to drink on the train”.

      Is this true? I thought they used to, and maybe still do, sell alcohol at station kiosks. I have seen people drinking on the train countless times and evening trains are full of drunks.

    3. Massimo Says:

      Unbelievable that, again, people like those far-right protesters (connected to 2-chan ?)
      are allowed to carry out protests in such a manner.

      Is there a chance we can do something about this ?

      Is there a way to have those kind of people repressed by the police, the media and,
      more important, by the law ?

      There must be a way to bring these cases in front of justice.
      What is this country where people can just write “We will form assassin’s death squads
      to kill gaijins..” and get unpunished and unharmed.

      Btw,reading the 2chan threads about the Halloween Yamanote I really got sick of all this……..
      plus those are threads with use restrictions so it’s not possible to post comments…

    4. Doug Says:

      This is probably one where I would side with the Japanese, with the exception of the “2chan” guys.

      In light of the way Tokyo’s “finest” have been reacting to other incidents and non incidents (the senior citizen with the knife) how else would we expect them to react here? The huge presence of cops is not surprising….also this thing was probably like a ticking time bomb anyway.

      In most other cities in the world (the costumes might be tolerated but some of the other behaviours might not). As far as the “far right” protesters….maybe that is why the police showed up in such force, to actually protect the gaijin. Has anybody considered that?

      As far as the chants of “Hiroshima and Nagasaki” I would retort with, “Nanking, Pearl Harbor, Bataam”…Yeah we all sucked as a species during WW2

      I know it is probably fun to get on the train and do the halloween thing, but as someone old enought to be the father of a kid riding on that train I see this as something that has the potential to end in a bad way and just maybe (I cannot believe I am saying this) the Tokyo cops were right this time.

    5. kino Says:

      Yelling “Dresden” back may not have been the best choice of retorts… Next time, try a “Unit 731” or “Bataan Death March”… :)

      Not that I expect the average Japanese person to understand either reference (maybe I’m being unfairly cynical).

    6. Ben Says:

      Maybe you should wind-up the 2ch followers with something like this –

      “Since we could not get access to the trains in Shinjuku Station, we will try it again THIS Saturday…”

      Next week, then do the same again, I’m sure 2ch people will get bored quickly…

    7. debito Says:

      Japan Probe has a report on this in much more detail and visual:

      Anti-foreign protests in Tokyo on Halloween night

      The infamous Yamanote Halloween Train party was supposed to take place last night in Tokyo. This year’s party brought more than just cops, foreigners, and 2-channelers. Those who showed up at Shinjuku station at t9:00PM last night encountered a very angry and very loud group of nationalist activists carrying Japanese flags and signs with anti-foreign slogans.

    8. Tom R. Says:

      Neglected to be mentioned is the fact that these protest groups have no core principles that they follow, no universal values, and on the surface its all a big show. Unlike for example groups like the Nazis that believed everything could be blamed on race and tried to exterminate a group of people. You’d at least expect after hearing about this, if a foreigner were caught in the protest crowd they would have been torn to shreds because of their skin color;I don’t believe that would happen.

      Beyond the effects it had on naive tourists, and the promotion of discrimination towards foreigners, Japanese nationals of a different skin color, can this incident be taken seriously? Should it?

    9. Graham Says:

      The anti-foreigner protest was disturbing even for some 2-channelers against the Yamanote line party.

      Here’s post no.238:

      “The most disturbing people tonight ended up being Japanese. There were no foreigners, but only a group of Japanese screaming and making threats, having nothing to do with Halloween.

      There were people holding signs that said “Die, get out of Japan,” and the faces that foreigners not involved in this case made were unforgettable. They were like (゜Д゜). You had to feel sorry for them when seeing them like that…

      The anti-Yamanote line Halloween party protest ended up becoming an anti-foreigner protest, with a lot of guys holding up the national flag, and it made me feel nauseous. If last night’s video gets uploaded on YouTube, everyone will think that Japanese are foreigner-hating racists.”

    10. adamw Says:

      dunno about the yamanote but they sell beer on the shinkansen so not illegal to drink there

    11. Allen Says:

      I wonder if any of this ended up on Nico Nico Douga if it didn’t end up on youtube? Its nice to see a 2-channer defending the foreigners. I liked the face he made too.(゜Д゜)

    12. debito Says:


      Hi Debito, it’s Richard Lloyd Parry of The Times here. I was interested to read the eyewitness account of the anti-Hallowe’en protest and might write a story about it. I wondered if you could put me in touch with that person, or any other eye witnesses?

      My details are below. Feel free to pass them on to any potential interviewees…
      All the best to you,


      Richard Lloyd Parry
      Asia Editor, The Times
      Yomiuri Shimbun Bldg
      1-7-1 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku
      Tokyo, Japan 100-8055
      o. +81-(0)3-3270-3480
      richard.lloydparry AT

    13. Kimberly Says:

      I’m pretty sure its not ILLEGAL to drink on the Yamanote, but it’s at least bad manners to drink on the train, and possibly against JR’s rules (but if so I have never seen it enforced).

      I have never had the “pleasure” of being on the Yamanote line on Halloween… but I also fidn the whole idea to be in pretty bad taste. In the US, as long as things didn’T get out of hand I’d say Halloween revelry is fine… but we’re talking about a country in which just about ZERO of the adult population celebrates this holiday… so why would anyone think that it WOULDNT inconvenience the whole city to celebrate in such a loud, public way? Stopping people in costume from getting on the train is taking it a little far… plenty of clubs and bars have Halloween parties, and celebrating in a designated place, with others who know what is going on and have agreed to be a part of it, is not a problem for anyone… but if you can’t take the train to GET to the clubs… well that’s just not necessary. Anti-foreing protesters, I obviously can’t agree with BUT… if Halloween has a bad name, the foreign participants have definitely done their part to give it one.

      There are Chinese New Year celebrations in the states. But you don’t see a bunch of drunken Chinese pulling their big dragons onto the New York subways. There is a time and a place for ethnic celebrations but I think we need to be aware that the general public has no interest in being in the middle of it, and respect that.

    14. DS Says:

      Behavior of the right wingers aside…

      Is it really a good idea to have a party on a public transit vehicle? That strikes me as rude and thoughtless at best, and downright dangerous at worst. There are plenty of bars and clubs having parties, house parties, hell you can even go to a public park at night and probably not disturb anyone. The trains already have enough semi-drunk idiots riding them without adding to the total.

      OR, if you really want to have a party on a train, contact the train company and rent a train for the evening. Zip around to your heart’s content. Or rent a bus from a bus company, or a ferry/party boat. Just don’t clutter up the train with your idiocy.

      — I think the point being made by the writer of this article is that the event does not justify this degree of anti-foreign invective. Let’s turn our attention to that.

    15. carl Says:

      Hmmm, I found an interesting comment in an older Japan Probe post about this topic:

      “You could always have someone dress up like Debito to make sure the party-goers aren’t kicked off the train in the name of discrimination”

      Any thoughts?

      — Har har, sez I.

    16. Behan Says:

      Shouting ‘Hiroshima, Nagasaki’ seems so typical of the tendency to equate foreigner with American. The US dropped the bombs. Canada, Australia, England, France….didn’t. In fact, England and Germany were among the many victims of civilian bombing in WWII.
      Actually, I think saying ‘Dresden’ was kind of appropriate because for all the 2-chan right wingers knew, the person was German.

    17. Aru Says:

      I was wearing a very scary costume and rode the train from Shinjuku (Fukushima like) towards Roppongi. No problems or hostility by anyone… maybe I was just lucky.

      ps: about not drinking in the train I see Japanese people drinking all the time, and worst of all, I see very drank people on the train too!

    18. Andi Says:

      Bloody hell, I had no idea Tokyo was quite THAT much of a police city. In London we only ever have that kind of police mobilisation for million man protest marches, and even then only when they get near Parliament Square. It makes me wonder just how many police Tokyo has in the first place.

      It’s disheartening to see so many people going for the rowdy-foreigners-causing-a-disturbance angle: by all indications, the majority of the revellers were Japanese, and even if they were all foreigners they weren’t breaking the law.

      Thankfully, here in Kobe the night was pretty nice. Not a cop to be seen, despite the costumed Hallowe’en activity all around Sannomiya and some foreigners busting out some amazing bongo music.

    19. Glenn Says:

      I have to throw my hat in with Doug and the others who’ve said this idea of a Halloween party on a local Tokyo train is a bad idea. I have little sympathy for these people; their antics (see for example pictures of drunks getting naked on the train along with reports of them harassing Japanese passengers last year at make living here harder for the rest of us non-Japanese. Of course the reaction of these racists is unjustified; this goes without saying. But we all know these people – fortunately very much in the minority – are out there. Why give them ammunition for their anti-foreigner campaign?

      I also agree with Doug that the police were quite likely there to protect foreigners or at least try to prevent any altercations between the groups. For sure they monitor 2chan, so they knew of the potential for trouble. Yet N complains about the police presence while admitting to drinking on the train. There are plenty of great bars for Halloween parties in Tokyo; is it so hard for people living in a foreign country to just follow the rules and etiquette of where they have chosen to live? [unfounded supposition deleted]

    20. Jeremy Says:

      It’s NOT against the law to drink on JR trains. The Shinkansen sells beer from the vending cart, I see plenty of people on the Tokaido going for trips on the weekend with their bentos and beer/one cups out. And I constantly drink on the trains, all of them, for the past several years and no riders/friends have ever said anything (I see Japanese doing it too, so I’m pretty sure I’m in the clear).

      Granted, it’s usually good to practice good manners anywhere, and I’ve never been part of a party that’s filled up a car, but I’ve been with 15 or so fairly loud revelers on the train and we’ve never had problems.

      — I’ve heard similarly aggressive things happening when Hanshin Tigers revelers allegedly occupy trains. I wonder if the self-proclaimed “Protestants” outside the station would similarly picket against the introduction of that foreign game “Baseball”.

    21. DR Says:

      I had to scratch my head on this one. Protestants? OK, October 31st is the anniversary of Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to the door at Wittenberg in 1517. But Hallowe’en is a druid Celtic festival of Shamhna, thousands of years BCE! If these folks are going to get this riled up over Hallowe’en, I can’t imagine what’s gonna happen at Christmas! Or Valentine’s Day, or even March 17th? Will they protest the St. Patrick’s Day parades too? I mean, it’s not like all blue blood Japanese are wearing kimono and geta, or writing haiku in the parks? Cross cultural pollenation is something genetic to Japan, as is exporting Nintendo, Toyota or manga abroad. Talk about cultural insecurity breeding terror in a sector of the community! Or maybe ishihara’s goons are still miffed that the Olympics went elsewhere? I just despair when I see these kinds of reports.

    22. Tom R. Says:

      Kimberly wrote:

      “if Halloween has a bad name, the foreign participants have definitely done their part to give it one.”

      If incidents like these are going to be confronted and old stereotypes and racist attitudes changed, ideas like the one quoted above definitely need to be changed if not stopped. Being self critical, and practically giving certain Japanese groups and racist behavior an excuse to continue, is seen as a weakness not an asset, and promotes racism.

      Can you imagine a westerner standing in the crowd of protesters actually agreeing with whats written on their signs, slogans, and apologizing for themselves and for America, U.K., Europe, Canada?

      Yes I could.

    23. Kimberly Says:

      The difference between a Halloween party on the Yamanote and a St. Patrick’s Day parade is pretty clear to me… the St. Patrick’s Day parade is a planned event that anyone who bothers to research can find out about, and make the choice whether to be in the area at the time or not. It’s a public enough event that I assume the organizers have permission from the local government, police, etc. The partiers on the Yamanote line obviously do NOT plan things out and get permission from JR and the cops and let local residents know exactly what’s going to happen and when.

      I don’t agree that the reaction here was appropriate. Hiroshima and Nagasaki have nothing to do with what happened, and there are plenty of goth events etc. on other nights of the year that see people in costume getting on the train – no one stops them. “Get out of Japan” is not an appropriate reaction. But JR and law enforcement taking steps to ensure that a handful of people don’t inconvenience the hundreds of people trying to get from point A to point B on that particular night? I do understand that. The reaction was not appropriate. But the party on the train was not, in my humble opinion, appropriate either. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Halloween _with others who also want to celebrate_, there is no need to cause a public disturbance.

    24. BG Says:

      That is just scarey. I was out at a friend’s celebrating, and luckily the four of us (3 foreigners, one Japanese) decided to take a taxi to Shinjuku instead of the train. Good thing we did- we had no intention to be a part of the Halloween train, but would have gotten mixed up in that mess regardless.

      Yes, the Halloween train is silly, and over the years some troublemakers have given it a bad name. I don’t blame people for disliking it- some of the revelers in previous years have gone over the top, and that in itself is reason enough to bring a stop to it, but that does not in any way justify a voilent, hateful protest. Those signs were way beyond simply protesting the Halloween train- they were blantly racist.

      First of all, they focused solely on the foreign participants. As noted, a lot of Japanese people also take part in the party. Secondly, the signs were anti-foreigner (motherfuck foringers) not anti-Halloween train (should have been “motherfuck halloween train” LOL). They also disregarded the fact that it’s the Japanese themselves who have adopted Halloween and made it big. We’re less than 1% of the population- there’s no way we made Halloween this big in Japan all by our lonesome.

      You also never see huge protests like this aimed at the Japanese who break the laws while riding the train- what about a protest against the chikan, or other Japan-born-and-bred train menanaces? Hahaha….I’d LOVE to see large groups of angry Japanese women holding signs that say “motherfuck chickan”- I bet that would put a stop to them! Too bad the only people lively enough to protest anything are the right-wing crazies.

      I agree that considering how obnoxious the Halloween train has become that it should be stopped, but anti-foreign protests are just NOT justifable.

    25. Tom R. Says:

      Lets be clear, racism and discriminatory attitudes are not isolated to a handful of “right wing” groups in Japan.

      The sole reason the right wing groups appeared that night is because it is a well known spot that foreigners meet in number. They brought signs for a particular reason.

      There is a growing sense that certain behavior under the right context can be ignored even justified, i.e. the Halloween train is obnoxious so its OK to act in an insulting, offensive manner toward anyone who maybe watching. Or even more confusingly the Halloween train started by foreigners is disrespectful to Japanese culture, and ethnocentric because it is mainly white western Anglo Saxon.

    26. Marc Says:

      The cops actually had a specific reason for cracking down hard – a number of 2-channers had threatened that they were going to board the train and stab a few costumed foreigners if the party went ahead.

      Given the number of spree stabbings that have taken place since the Akihabara massacre, they tend to take those sort of threats seriously.

      — Source for the first paragraph?

    27. ronindave Says:

      Having been on the Halloween Train from 2005-2009 and talking to some people that rode it back in the 90s, the Halloween Train of this decade is a much different animal. It’s far more tame and far more Japanese attend than in the past. There aren’t any posters being ripped down or lights being smashed or commuters being harrassed. It’s more a jovial inclusive mischievous event that is relatively harmless which has been exaggerated out of proportions.

      The rightwingers simply saw this an opportunity to make some noise and vent their anger the same way they do every Aug 15th and whenever whaling season starts or those islands between Korea and Japan come up in the news. I don’t see their presence as anything special – just a bit of showy theatrics. I’m more worried about the rightwingers like those tea-baggers in the US getting violent than these guys.

    28. Pete C Says:

      I managed to catch a brief view of the commotion while on my way back home to Gunma. I was attending the Bledisloe cup rugby match between Australia and New Zealand over at the National Stadium earlier in the night (which would have been a far better target for these protests considering it was the largest gathering of foreigners I have ever seen in Tokyo) and was on my way to the last train home when we heard really loud chanting coming from just inside the minami-guchi. I could see some signs being waved that were in both Japanese in English, something to the effect of “NO HALLOWEEN IN JAPAN.” It looked to me like the police were more there for the protest rather than to stop foreigners but I was in a hurry so didn’t pay attention/attract their ire. Over and over on the loudspeaker some poor chap kept telling the protesters that they were causing a meiwaku to everyone and should stop. It was about as effective as the Japanese policeman my friend witnessed at the rugby trying to stop a group of New Zealands from beating up an Irishman (he was dancing around them asking politely to stop).

      On second thoughts, it was probably a good idea they didn’t protest at the stadium…

    29. Marc Says:

      My wife read the threats firsthand on 2chan, D. I’ll have to see if we can find them again, though they may have cycled off.

    30. Justin Says:

      Well lookie here, a bunch of partiers (Japanese AND foreigners) in Fukui held a full-fledged Halloween party on a train, with the permission and support of the train company. They even installed a sound system and disco balls in the train cars:

      Looks like Halloween train parties are not such an affront to Japanese culture after all. Doubt this will shut up the 2-chan racists, though.

    31. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Looks like those partiers in Fukui — my sister prefecture! — did things the right way! Hopefully the Tokyo revelers can rent their own train car in the future and head off the protests and the ugly 2-chan types.

    32. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      A Halloween party on a train without approval… not such a good idea for winning friends and influencing people.
      However, some points I noticed.
      “Halloween is not part of Japanese culture”. Coming from a country and generation where Halloween wasn’t celebrated (seen purely as an American import on TV), I get annoyed at having to “do Halloween lessons” and “talk about Halloween” in my job.
      Even my wife wants me to do Halloween stuff with the kids.
      There are Halloween decorations up in stores everywhere. Halloween-themed products… all this part of a foreign plot? Nope. The Japanese have taken Halloween on board. Protestors (or is that “protestants”?), take note.
      Photos of some of the placards indicate that at least some of the protestors came not to shout down bad behaviour on the trains but to kick foreign things out of Japan. I wonder if that includes foreign things like rice, chopsticks, Heian-period temple design…
      I feel sorry for the police in this case. They get called out to prevent what could end up in bloody violence (some of those placards were particularly nasty), and even sorrier for the commutors who had to pass through the mob.
      I’m surprised this didn’t make the news, or at least the morning infotainment shows (twisted, of course to show people demonstrating against “bad behaviour by foreigners who don’t understand our unique culture”)
      I remember how the “over exhuberent behaviour” of certain soccer fans during the world cup was separated from hooliganism by virtue of nationality. I wonder how much the same applies here.

    33. john k Says:

      For all the rights and wrongs of this, I’m just wondering what has sitting on a train drinking, getting drunk, have to do with Hallowev’en, other than the event occurs annually on the 31st Oct?

      If it the train became the “Melbourne Cup” train, or “The Ashes train”, or for the others minorities, “The Super Bowl” train, one could understand the need to consume copious amounts of alcohol, in the name of the train and event; the link between sporting events and alcohol is synonymous. But for a 20~25,000 year old pagan new year spiritual event..?? hmmmm..!!!!

    34. Graham Says:

      The obviously important point of that story is that the party was held with the permission of the train company and support from the local community, as opposed to the Yamanote Line party which is done with zero permission and very little support. I don’t think the 2-channelers will be opposed to the party if it was held in the fashion of that in Fukui.

      I experienced the same thing back when I used to teach kids too. Seems like the Japanese big media and Dentsu want to import Halloween as part of Japan’s annual celebration, for obvious business reasons (like Christmas and Valentines Day).

      And to all those who defend drinking on trains because “other Japanese do it too”: you have to understand that they are breaking the manner code too, and you shouldn’t model your manners off ill-mannered people. Not all those who live in Japan follow every rules. Of course there are outcasts. That’s why you see signs with young men eating cup ramen on trains with message at the bottom that reads “please do it at home.” I think the excuse is in fact rather childish.
      But do note that shinkansen are exceptions, since the seats are arranged so that people can have certain level of personal space, and of course tables. Ordinary train seats do not allow for such personal space, which is why drinking on those trains is considered a no-no. At least that’s how I understand it.

    35. adamw Says:


      fine-but the point regarding japanese drinking on the train is that when they do it there are not howling mobs trying to attack them that have to held back by the police

    36. Kakui Kujira Says:

      I don’t know whether or not drinking on trains in Japan is legal or not. But I made the decision once on the Shizutetsu line to buy a beer and wait for the next train only to see the train conductor was holding the train for me! He also saw I had an open beer! Not only that, the ojisan seating next to me saw I hadn’t got the necessary snack to drink with and offered me some of his.
      That’s the moment I knew I loved Japan…

      — Let’s get this straight. The Japanese authorities have little problem with people drinking on trains. What some people in Japan have a problem with are foreigners drinking on trains and allegedly causing trouble. Still others (and this is true of any country) have trouble with foreigners doing much of anything at all.

    37. Bob Says:

      old japanese guys drink on the yamanote everyday, even around 9am in my experience. however, they aren’t comitting such acts as being a foreigner having a good time with japanese people, including women, which the 2channelers angrily port about, so it is ok.

    38. Chris Says:

      I have some very politically right-leaning Japanese friends. And even they say that this group is just a well-known group of nuts and racists. Nishimura, their leader is quite crazy it seems. See their site and you will be convinced:
      The USA has its KKK. Japan has its “net rightwingers” and even crazier organizations. Most of the public just ignores them as the nutcases they are. While we can’t get rid of them, at least we can rest assured that they are a minority, even if their actions make them seem more relevant than they are. Just think, it isn’t that hard to get 100 people together in a city of millions.

    39. Peter Says:

      It seemed like a lot of fuss for nothing really. I came across the hemmed in protesters in Shinjuku station and took this photo:

      Spoilsports or not, I prefer to ride the trains without any extra entertainment – there is enough oddity to be seen anyway. The protesters were dressed in military fatigues and carrying banners with the slogans you can see in my picture and others. If you want a party next year, fancy dress at that, dress up as a Japanese soldier, make an anti-foreigner placard, wear a mask and join in. It’s a free country and we can all play at the protesting game. From the assorted fashion of the protesters and policemen gathered I think it would not have been out of place to have played “YMCA” over the speaker system. Might have been fun…

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