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Protesters rally against new defense policy

Thousands of people demonstrated outside the Prime Minister's office in central Tokyo on Tuesday to protest a new defense policy.

The demonstrators began their rally in the morning. They criticized the Cabinet's plan to approve reinterpreting the Constitution to allow the use of the right to collective self-defense.

They held up banners that said "Don't destroy Article 9 of the Constitution" and "Don't go to war". Article 9 is the war-renouncing clause of Japan's Constitution.

A 22-year-old college student from Tokyo said she is fearful of the Cabinet's method of changing defense policy through reinterpretation instead of amending the Constitution.

A 55-year-old man from a neighboring prefecture said he is against the new policy because it's a sharp turnaround from the traditional defense-only policy that Japan has followed since World War Two.

The protesters learned in the afternoon that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet had finally approved the new policy. A 74-year-old woman said she is shocked by the news and she worries that Japan's post-war policy of avoiding armed conflict may be changed.

A group of Japanese lawyers is also calling on the government to retract its decision to allow the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

Members of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations held a news conference on Tuesday. They released a statement to protest the Cabinet decision.

The statement says the government, which is bound by the Constitution, has effectively changed the
war-renouncing Article 9 by a Cabinet decision -- without thorough discussion among the people.

The statement says this fundamentally runs counter to the principles of constitutionalism.

The lawyers stressed that all 52 bar associations across Japan are against the change.

They said they plan to carry out street campaigns to call on people to seek the retraction of the decision.

They said the federation is set to oppose revisions of the Self-Defense Forces Law and other relevant legislation needed to implement the policy change.

Jul. 2, 2014 - Updated 00:09 UTC