Security Beefed Up at Campaign Venues After Attack on Japan PM Kishida

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Police officers look out over the crowd from the roof of a building near where a campaign speech was being given in Wakayama on Sunday.

Security has been conspicuously beefed up at public campaign stops across the nation in the wake of the Saturday’s attack in Wakayama, in which a smoke bomb-like device was thrown at Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Kishida was unharmed and a suspect arrested, but the attack has prompted campaigners in the second half of the unified local elections and the five by-elections for both houses of the Diet to start baggage inspections at street speeches, or to change the venue of rallies.

On Sunday, former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was in Wakayama, delivering a speech in a supermarket parking lot in support of a Liberal Democratic Party candidate for Wakayama Constituency No. 1 in the House of Representatives by-election.

The tension was high. Wakayama prefectural police officers screened visitors with metal detectors, and checked the contents of bags and other personal belongings. Police officers were deployed to the roof of a nearby building, and prefectural police dogs were taken on rounds of the area.

The prefectural police said it conducted the baggage checks in consultation with the National Police Agency. “We will carry out security in line with the circumstances,” a senior prefectural police official said.

Kishida himself was back on the campaign trail, appearing without incident Sunday in several outdoor locations in Oita Prefecture stumping for an LDP candidate in the Oita prefectural constituency by-election to fill a House of Councillors seat.

Security at the venue was tight, with bags checked and metal detectors in place. With a police officer positioned every few meters, Kishida exchanged fist-bumps with citizens.

In Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi gave a speech for a candidate for a city assembly election. The audience was limited to a designated area, which was separated by a bulletproof shield from the place where Motegi spoke.

Meanwhile, about 20 police officers carrying bulletproof briefcases and other personnel could be seen in front of JR Otsukyo Station in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, where Japanese Communist Party secretariat head Akira Koike spoke in support of a candidate for a city assembly election.

The audience listened from a sidewalk lined with traffic cones, more than 10 meters away from where Koike stood on a podium on top of a vehicle. “A potential attacker could be lurking in the crowds, so we took thorough security precautions,” a party official said.

Stepped up security was also seen among candidates in races in the second half of the unified local elections, for which campaigning officially kicked off Sunday.

A first-time candidate for mayor of Takaishi, Osaka Prefecture, had considered giving a speech on a street where he would have a 360-degree view of the crowd. But considering the risk of an attack from behind, the plan was changed to renting a parking lot where a building would be behind the candidate.

The number of security staff was also doubled to about 50. “We placed the highest priority on holding the event safely,” a senior campaign official said.

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