On June 22nd, 2019, dozens of Japanese American WWII Concentration Camp survivors and descendants traveled from around the country to protest the planned detention of asylum-seeking children at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Six camp survivors, Satsuki Ina, Kiyoshi Ina, Chizu Omori, Emiko Omori, Paul Tomita, and Nikki Nojima Louis, joined together for a press conference at the Bentley Gate entrance to Fort Sill to share out their stories of incarceration and family separation.
A military police officer interrupted their statements, ordering them to move immediately. Together, survivors remained in place and continued speaking out, even as the officer repeatedly ordered them to leave. As Dr. Satsuki Ina said, “We’ve been removed too many times.”
ACLU Oklahoma and local Lawton police supported in de-escalation, so that survivors were able to finish speaking and relocate to Shepler Park for a larger demonstration in collaboration with AIM Indian Territory, Dream Action Oklahoma, Black Lives Matter OKC, CAIR Oklahoma, and other local groups.
Democracy Now! covered Tsuru for Solidarity’s act of resistance, as well as local community leaders’ speeches in full here:
Following our protest at Bentley Gate, Tsuru for Solidarity members organized at Shepler Park to do healing ceremony with Reverend Duncan Ryuken Williams and AIM spiritual advisor Michael Topaum, to remember all those who had suffered under the state violence embodied in Fort Sill.
As Reverend Duncan Ryuken Williams reflected:
“It was an honor to officiate a Buddhist ceremony at the start of the rally – chanting the Heart Sutra while the six camp survivors offered incense in front a Buddha statue that had been carved in Manzanar in 1943, which I had borrowed from LA’s Zenshuji Temple. This ceremony was part of a healing ceremony led by Michael Topaum, the spiritual leader of the American Indian Movement, which was apropos to the fact that Fort Sill was a prisoner-of-war camp for Apache tribal members and that the U.S. has a history of forcefully removing their children from their homes and into so-called “Indian Schools.”
After the healing ceremony, we held space for local groups across indigenous, Latinx, immigrant, and other allied communities to speak out against the incarceration of immigrants in detention.
To end, we invited community members to leave a red handprint on a banner resolving to end concentration camps.
One of our Tsuru for Solidarity Fort Sill participants, Alan Kondo, filmed our action and created a documentary short. Watch below to see our action as well as interviews on the ground with our members and allies: