Japanese-American elders protest outside Fort Sill internment camp: ‘Stop repeating history’
By Gabe Ortiz
Jun 24 2019
A group of Japanese-American elders who survived being thrown into internment camps by their own government protested at Oklahoma’s Fort Sill on Saturday, the site of a former World War II internment camp that the Trump administration plans on reopening to jail at least 1,400 migrant children.
The activists and their allies came to warn, and for that reason refused to leave the site, even when insulted by U.S. military police. “You need to move right now!” an officer identified by Democracy Now! as Keyes screamed at the Japanese-American activists. “What don’t you understand? It’s English: Get out.” When undeterred survivors continued speaking, Keyes twice yelled, “What don’t you people understand?”
The activists understood very well, thanks. That’s why they were there. “I am a former child incarceree during World War II,” said Dr. Satsuki Ina. “This is a photograph of me when I was imprisoned. Seventy-five years ago, 120,000 of us were removed from our homes and forcefully incarcerated in prison camps across the country. We are here today to protest the repetition of history.”
The activists carried with them thousands of origami cranes “as a symbol of solidarity,” which were among the same cranes that the activists, including Dr. Ina, hung outside a migrant family jail in Texas last March. A banner that was also hung outside that facility reading, “Never again is now,” a message they echoed outside Fort Sill.
“We were in American concentration camps,” she said. “We were held under indefinite detention. We were without due process of law. We were charged without any evidence of being a threat to national security, that we were in an unassimilable race, that we would be a threat to the economy. We hear these exact words today regarding innocent people seeking asylum in this country.”
“And unlike 1942,” she continued, “when America turned their back on us while we were disappearing from our homes, our schools, our farms and our jobs, we are here today to speak out, to protest the unjust incarceration of innocent people seeking refuge in this country. We stand with them, and we are saying, ‘Stop repeating history’”
She carried with her a sign reading, “concentration camp survivor.” Another protester who was at Fort Sill was the son of concentration camp survivors from Poland. Mike Korenblit “wore a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum T-shirt to Saturday’s protest and defended using the term ‘concentration camps’ for internment camps and migrant holding areas. ‘They are the same kind of situation. Why aren’t they identified as the same thing?’”
In a recent editorial, The Salt Lake Tribune wrote, “yes, we do have concentration camps … our nation is operating concentration camps for refugee children. We need to stop denying that and decide if we are comfortable with that fact. And how we will explain it to our children.”
Children belong with their families in freedom, but the ongoing family separation policy has continue to result in hundreds more kids being separated at the border and held in deplorable conditions that have left some kids near death. “It’s intentional disregard for the well-being of children,” said attorney Toby Gialluca. “The guards continue to dehumanize these people and treat them worse than we would treat animals.”