JAs to Join Immigrants’ Rights Activists in Fort Sill Protest

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On Saturday, Tsuru For Solidarity — a nonviolent direct-action project of Japanese American descendants and survivors of WWII prison camps working to end modern-day family separation and migrant detention sites — will join Dream Action Oklahoma, United We Dream, and other organizations to protest the unjust detention of up to 1,400 migrant youth at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams

Hundreds from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, California, Tennessee and other states are expected to converge on the base.

During the protest, Soto Zen Buddhist priest Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams and Buddhist monks of multiple sects will lead a Buddhist memorial service for a Japanese man who was killed at Fort Sill during WWII, for indigenous people and children imprisoned at Fort Sill, and in remembrance of migrant children who have recently died in detention or in border crossings.

Tsuru For Solidarity was created by Japanese American survivors and descendants of WWII prison camps for those of Japanese ancestry, to voice the moral outrage of the Japanese American and Japanese Latin American community at the ongoing mass detentions in the United States. The group brings paper cranes or “tsuru” to protests as a symbol of solidarity.

During WWII, the U.S. government imprisoned 700 people of Japanese ancestry at Fort Sill. Many were permanent residents who were nevertheless barred from naturalizing as U.S. citizens on the basis of their race, under immigration laws at the time. Kanesaburo Oshima, a father of 11, was shot to death by guards in 1942 after he had an apparent breakdown and ran to the fence.

Fort Sill’s history includes being the site of so-called “boarding schools” for indigenous children and the forced incarceration of relocated members of the Apache nation.

This week’s protest follows the June 22 protest at Fort Sill organized by Tsuru For Solidarity in coalition with local Indigenous, immigrants’ rights, and racial justice activist groups, and led by Japanese American elders who were incarcerated as children during WWII. Six camp survivors, the oldest of whom was 89, and several others risked arrest when they told their stories and displayed paper cranes in front of Fort Sill.

Tsuru for Solidarity’s first public action was in March, when 60 Japanese Americans and Japanese Latin Americans laid nearly 30,000 paper cranes on the barbed-wire fence of the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. The group is also planning a large action in Washington, D.C. in May 2020.

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