FRESNO — A brass plaque was stolen last week from the Pinedale Assembly Center Memorial and Remembrance Plaza, apparently by metal thieves, according to local TV stations.
Dedicated on Feb. 19, 2007 to mark the 65th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, the plaque marks one of two internment sites in Fresno and reads as follows:
“This memorial is dedicated to over 4,800 Americans of Japanese ancestry who were confined at the Pinedale Assembly Center from May to July 1942. This was an early phase of the mass incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II pursuant to Executive Order 9066. They were detained without charges, trial or establishment of guilt. May such injustice and suffering never recur.
“California Registered Historical Landmark No. 934. Plaque placed by California State Parks in cooperation with the City of Fresno, Japanese American Citizens League and Central California Nikkei Foundation.”
A smaller plaque, which was not stolen, was installed in February 2009. It reads, “This Remembrance Plaza is co-sponsored by the Clovis Veterans Memorial District in honor of all veterans who have served in the U.S. military, specifically those of Japanese American descent during World War II. Their bravery, loyalty and dignity serve as an inspiration to an entire nation, for all times.”
The theft was noticed on Nov. 5 by Bruce Thiessen, CEO of the Clovis Veterans Memorial District, which oversees the plaza. “To me it would take a sick person to do that,” he told KMPH-TV. “This marker represents families who went through a lot.”
The theft was also upsetting because it came just before Veterans Day, Thiesen said.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge Dale Ikeda, who chaired the memorial project, said that he initially feared the theft was a hate crime, but now thinks it was part of a series of metal thefts.
“I think this is an aberration,” Ikeda told KMPH. “Maybe somebody stole this heavy brass plaque to sell it for scrap rather than to direct it at the Japanese American community.”
The plaza’s 12 storyboards, which convey local Japanese American history, were untouched, noted Ikeda, whose parents and grandparents were among those interned.
Ikeda also chaired the construction of a memorial at the Fresno Assembly Center site, which was dedicated in 2011.
The Pinedale plaque is worth about $50, but might prove difficult to sell since metal recyclers are now required to take steps to ensure they are not buying stolen items. In recent years, thieves have taken everything from wiring for public utilities to guard rails on the roads.
Thiesen told KFSN-TV that the plaque will cost up to $5,000 to replace, but that the district will not press charges if it is returned. “We’re more than happy just to take it back … and won’t have any hard feelings, but I just hope and pray that whoever’s got it realizes the injustice they’ve done.”
The plaza is located at 625 W. Alluvial Ave. in Palm Bluffs Circle between Palm and Ingram.