Petition Launched to Stop Proposed Tule Lake Fence

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An online petition was launched last week to stop a proposed fence at the Tulelake Municipal Airport, site of the former Tule Lake Segregation Center in Modoc County.

Tule Lake was one of 10 “relocation centers” established by the War Relocation Authority to detain Japanese Americans from the West Coast. In 1943, it was designated as a segregation center for internees who had been labeled as “disloyal,” and it continued to operate even after the end of World War II, until 1946.

The Tule Lake Pilgrimage is held at the former camp site every other year, and Tule Lake is now part of the National Park Service’s WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument. It is located near the town of Tulelake in Siskiyou County.

According to the petitioner, the San Francisco-based Tule Lake Committee, “The proposed fence will desecrate the physical and spiritual aspects of Tule Lake … Japanese Americans … while attempting to mourn their own past, will instead be assaulted with the reminder of rejection, exclusion and emotional pain.

The locations of the Tule Lake National Monument and Tulelake Municipal Airport superimposed on a wartime photo of the Tule Lake Segregation Center.

“According to the Federal Aviation Administration, in an effort to be more ‘sensitive’ to our concerns, the proposed fence would not be topped with barbed wire. Please show your support that the most sensitive solution is to NOT BUILD THE FENCE.”

The message to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta states, “Surrounding the Tulelake Municipal Airport with a three-mile-long fence will have a detrimental and negative impact to the site where 18,000 people were imprisoned during World War II. Site tours would no longer be possible, and visitors could no longer experience the dimension and magnitude of the concentration camp where people walked long distances to eat meals, attend school, do laundry and use the latrines.

“The site, a portion of which received designation as a national monument in 2008, housed the largest number of prisoners, stayed opened the longest and was the place where ‘troublemakers’ from other camps were sent.

“The Federal Aviation Administration’s consideration of Modoc County’s application to construct the fence would run through the center of the former segregation center. There is scant evidence of deer wandering onto the runway or human interference with crop duster planes, arguments cited by proponents of the fence.”

As of July 9, 416 people had signed the petition. The goal is 1,000. Those who sign also have the option of leaving comments. Some examples:

Satsuki Ina of Sacramento: “I was born in the Tule Lake Segregation Center. Maintaining its physical integrity is an essential aspect of the enormity of the social injustice. Also I would like for my children and grandchildren and other students to visit the site and experience the physical and emotional aspects of life behind the barbed-wire fence so that such a travesty never happens again.”

Leon Kimura of San Jose: “My mother was one of those that sat behind the fence at Tule Lake. I find the building of another fence is highly symbolic and disrespectful of those who were incarcerated there. Not sure what the FAA’s Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Impact Report had to say about mitigating impacts, but you would think that there are alternatives to the fence to keep wildlife away from the airfield.”

Janice Ono of Federal Way, Wash.: “My mother’s family was sent there from the Poulsbo, Wash. area. I want to have the freedom to come and go there, something that they were denied.”

Amy Peterson of Portland, Ore.: “It is important to me because my mother and her family were incarcerated there. I have two cousins that were born there. The fence will block access to the area where they lived.”

Nancy Oda of Van Nuys: “Preserve the integrity of the historical site where my family lived from October 1943-August 1945. I was born there while my father was confined in the military stockade. Please, no more indignities.”

Hiroshi Abiko of Los Angeles: “This proposed fencing will renew the effects of isolating, confining and discriminating me, recalling the sadness experienced as a child. Alternative designs are appropriate steps to take at this time.”

Donald Hata of Redondo Beach: “Proposed fence would destroy historical integrity of the most horrific concentration camp in the entire gulag that imprisoned Americans of Japanese ancestry in World War II. It will be seen as an attempt by the federal gov’t to erase the gross violation of basic civil rights that deserve a hearing before an international war crimes tribunal.”

Wendy Maruyama of San Diego: “Tule Lake is a significant part of American history — the pilgrimages that take place there have presented some of the most provocative, informative, and stirring programming I have ever seen. It would be a travesty to see this fence erected on this site.”

Elizabeth Reynolds of Corona: “My grandmother, her father, and sister were sent to Tule Lake. Everything was taken away from them, their property, land, and dignity. My grandmother (Baachan) never spoke much about the camps, but what she ever did say about them was usually brief and lined with significance. Please do not desecrate the memory of what she and so many others had to endure for an unnecessary airport fence.”

Click here to see the petition on change.org.

(UPDATE: As of July 15, 784 people have signed the petition.)

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