Yokohama anti-casino groups suspend signature drive over Covid-19

The confrontation between the Yokohama municipal government and anti-casino citizen groups extended yet further over the approach to the state of emergency declaration and Covid-19 countermeasures.

A coalition of citizens groups aiming for a popular referendum on the city’s IR development plans told the media on Wednesday that although they had gathered thousands of volunteers to operate their signature drive, “there are many elderly people at the activity site” and to protect their health during the Covid-19 crisis, they would be suspending their actions until September.

However, the Yokohama municipal government has refused the citizen groups’ call to delay its own policies.

Mayor Fumiko Hayashi told the media that “the schedule cannot be changed,” citing the fact that the national government’s application schedule has not been altered due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Also, local citizen groups are angry about what they regard as the city’s “meaningless” ongoing public comment process, pointing out that Mayor Hayashi already stated in February that “even if there is a lot of opposition, that doesn’t mean the plan will be given up.”

Her stance is denounced by the anti-casino activists who call it “a denial of democracy.” One of their current protest chants is, “Rather than the unnecessary IR, we should prioritize countermeasures against the novel coronavirus and the protection of lives.”