A Japanese court Wednesday nullified a ban on “mannequin flash mobs” issued by a city in Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo, without assessing whether the order violated the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
The Yokohama District Court sided with plaintiffs including Minako Yoshida, an Ebina city assembly member, who staged a mannequin flash mob in an Ebina city walkway. The plaintiffs claimed the ban was an excessive restriction on freedom of expression.
According to the ruling, around 10 people including Yoshida gathered as a flash mob at the walkway over Ebina Station in February last year and stood still for several minutes while holding a board which said “we do not tolerate (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe’s politics.”
The following month, the city banned Yoshida from engaging in the practice known as a mannequin flash mob.
Presiding Judge Masamichi Okubo said that the court did not believe the action “would have significantly affected the safe and undisturbed flow of pedestrians,” adding the performance did not fall under the purview of an ordinance prohibiting demonstrations or assembly in a walkway.
The plaintiffs had argued that the city needed to give as much consideration as possible to guaranteeing freedom of expression. The city asserted the prohibition was based on its ordinance and that the restriction was aimed at securing smooth passage of pedestrians.