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On September 5, 1905 a diverse assortment of activist groups called for a rally at Hibiya Park in central Tokyo to protest what they saw as the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth between Russia and Japan, announced earlier that day. A crowd began to gather at the park early that evening only to find that the police had banned the rally and barricaded the park gates. The crowd swelled to about 30,000 people, but the police still refused to open the gates. The crowd then turned riotous, rampaging across the city for the next two days.

Before order was finally restored, angry mobs destroyed 70 percent of the police boxes in the city, 17 people were killed, over 1,000 police and civilians suffered injuries, and hundreds were arrested. News of the Tokyo volence touched of similar disturbances in Kobe and Yokohama, and would stimulate hundreds of nonviolent rallies, speeches, and meetings throughout Japan for the next several months.

The Hibiya Riot marks the beginning of a period in Japanese history that historians call the "era of popular violence" (minshû sôjô ki). Over the next 13 years Japan would be rocked by a series of violent protests (nine different riots in Tokyo alone), culminating in the great rice riots of 1918.

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