3,500 people attend anti-AUM rally in Tochigi Pref.

Kyodo, August 8, 1999

UTSUNOMIYA, Japan -- About 3,500 people gathered at a rally in Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture on Sunday, demanding that members of the AUM Shinrikyo cult who have taken up residence in the city move out.

The number of people turning out at the rally, including people from nearby cities and towns, surpassed that of a similar demonstration held in the city July 11, when about 1,000 people gathered, a local private council opposed to the cult's presence said.

The protesters surrounded a former Japanese-style inn where two of AUM founder Shoko Asahara's children and about a dozen AUM followers are living.

Masao Shibata, the council president, called on residents "to unite in kicking AUM out of town."

The participants, bearing placards that read, "AUM get out immediately," chanted slogans, while AUM members blared cult songs from speakers.

Police deployed 168 officers to maintain order at the 90-minute rally but there were no incidents.

The Otawara city office on June 28 denied residency to Asahara's 18-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. Applications for residency had been filed on their behalf by AUM members.

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and a number of AUM members are on trial on murder and attempted murder charges in such cases as the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing, in which 12 people died and more than 5,300 were injured.

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