500 people hold anti-Aum rally in Gunma Pref.

Kyodo News, August 22, 1999

MAEBASHI, Japan -- Some 500 local residents held a protest rally in Fujioka, Gunma Prefecture, on Sunday to demand that members of the AUM Shinrikyo cult occupying an old factory site in the city move out.

The rally, which took place on a parking lot near the old factory site, was also attended by senior city officials.

"Members of AUM Shinrikyo have been so bold as to move onto land in our city," community leader Hiroshi Sawairi told the rally. "For the sake of our children, we should fight them systematically. We should use the power of the people to throw them out."

The protesters then marched to the site, shouting, "Get out, now."

Early this month, residents learned that a male cult member obtained leasing rights to a building in the factory site and the house of a former president of a now-bankrupt company which ran the factory.

Two other AUM members applied for residency at the site but were turned down by the Fujioka city office, which cited a risk to public welfare should the cult be allowed to move in.

Police have set up checkpoints at a road in front of the old factory site, following sightings of trucks registered outside the prefecture making deliveries and a noticeable increase in the number of cult members staying at the site.

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

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