Buddhist Clergy Lead Service at Fort Sill

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Hundreds gather to protest plans to incarcerate migrant children at Army post.

A group of Buddhist leaders offer prayers on July 20 during a protest at Fort Sill, Okla., in a screen shot from Indigenous Rising Media. Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams participated in the first protest at Fort Sill on June 20 and organized the clergy for this memorial service.

LAWTON, Okla. — More than 400 people from across the country converged on Lawton, Okla., on July 20 to participate in a second protest at Fort Sill, where the Trump Administration announced plans to incarcerate an estimated 1,400 asylum-seeking migrant children as early as next month.

Tsuru for Solidarity members and a delegation of Buddhist priests joined the protest. Many of the Japanese Americans and their supporters had participated in a similar rally in front of Fort Sill on June 22.

Protesters braved the over-100-degree heat and closed down the street leading into Fort Sill. Unlike the heavy-handed tactics taken by the military police on June 22, there were no visible military police or Lawton police presence at this protest.

Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams, author of “American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War,” led the delegation of Buddhist priests. Following a Buddhist memorial service, he placed leis on a field artillery display in front of Fort Sill.

Before Mike Ishii, one of the co-founders of Tsuru for Solidarity, led the group in a “Close the camps” chant, he said, “This is nothing. If you bring the children here, every one of us represents thousands and thousands of people back home. And we will come back. You haven’t seen anything yet.”

Other Tsuru for Solidarity members who participated in the rally included Lauren Sumida, Linda Morris, Carl Takei and Becca Asaki.

Williams was able to organize a Sangha Support Group composed of 129 Buddhist priests and lay persons, guided by a seven-member steering committee chaired by Williams.

Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams and Rev. Egyoku Nakao offer prayers at Fort Sill on July 20. (Photo by Linda Morris/Tsuru for Solidarity)

Other Buddhist priests who were able to attend the Fort Sill rally included:

• Rev. William Briones, Los Angeles Honpa Hongwangi Buddhist Temple (Nishi Hongwangi)

• Rev. Ryuji Hayashi, Koyasan Beikoku Betsuin of Los Angeles

• Rev. Shumyo Kojima, Zenshuji Soto Mission

• Rev. Myozen Joan Amaral, Zen Center of North Shore

• Rev. Gyokuko Carlson, Dharma Rain Zen Center

• Rev. Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts, senior Dharma teacher, San Francisco Zen Center

• Rev. Zenshin Greg Fain, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

• Jitsujo Tina Gauthier, Zen Center of Los Angeles

• Rev. Jisan Tova Green, San Francisco Zen Center

• Rev. Gesshin Greenwood, Institute of Buddhist Studies and Empty Moon Zen Sangha

• Juliet Hwang, Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism

• Rev. Michael Mui Lewis, Great Mountain Zen Center

• Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Zen Center of Los Angeles

• Stephen Nakasone, board member, Los Angeles Higashi Hongwanji Temple

• Judy Nakatomi, Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism

• Kenley Neufeld, Dharmacharya, Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism

• Rev. Inryu Bobbi Ponce-Barger, All Beings Sangha

• Rev. Tenku Ruff, president, Soto Zen Buddhist Association

• Kairen Eric Russell

• Roshi Grace Schireson, Shogaku Zen Institute

Fort Sill has a long history of incarcerating people of color. During World War II, it held 700 Japanese Americans. Prior to this, it imprisoned different indigenous tribes, including Comanches and Apaches. Some of those who participated in the July 20 rally were descendants of victims of the Trail of Tears.

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