Holding signs and chanting, a group of demonstrators march in central Sapporo on Aug. 10 to protest the police manhandling of jeerers in July when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stumped in the city for the Upper House election. (Video by Hiraku Toda)

SAPPORO--Protesters marched through the streets of central Sapporo on Aug. 10 to denounce Hokkaido police for pulling two citizens from crowds after they jeered the prime minister and demanded an apology from authorities.

About 150 demonstrators paraded holding a banner that condemned a society where people could be grabbed and removed by police for simply heckling.

One of the two removed hecklers who joined the protest rally expressed grave concerns about the current situation in Japan.

“Our point is simple,” said the man, who is a 31-year-old social worker. “We are effectively living in a dictatorship as we were forcibly removed by police after simply shouting a complaint or two at a person in power.”

The protest concerned incidents on July 15, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stumped in Sapporo on behalf of a candidate from his Liberal Democratic Party running in the Upper House election.

At one site, the man in a crowd was mobbed by five or six police officers and forcibly hauled to the back after he yelled, “Abe should quit and go home.”

At another site, a woman who shouted, “I’m against the (consumption) tax hike,” suffered the same treatment at the hands of six or so police officers.

The female heckler, who also took part in the protest rally on Aug. 10, said she was glad she participated.

“Some bystanders applauded our rally,” said the 24-year-old woman. “The event proved greatly rewarding as I learned that there were people who identified with us.”

Daichi Jinbo, a lawyer who is a member of the Hokkaido arm of the Japan Lawyers Association of Freedom, urged the public to monitor the actions of police.

“(If things are left as they are), it could be our turn next,” he said. “We should stop police and prevent people in future generations from suffering outrageous treatment at their hands.”

The protesters chanted their slogans in front of the Hokkaido government building as well as the office of the LDP’s Hokkaido chapter.

When they reached the headquarters building of Hokkaido police, a leader of the group submitted a petition calling for a probe into who ordered the removal of the citizens and on what legal grounds.

The petition also stated that there were at least five other similar cases that occurred on July 15. It was also submitted to the Hokkaido Public Safety Commission, an administrative body.

Hokkaido police told The Asahi Shimbun on July 16 that the officers warned the hecklers that their actions were likely in violation of the Public Offices Election Law.

But the following day, police backtracked and said the officers wanted to avert any trouble, rather than out of concern over a possible violation of a law.

Hokkaido police have yet to present a legal justification for the officers’ actions to the public despite a request from Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki on Aug. 5.